Middleman in AgustaWestland chopper case to be extradited from UAE

Michel accused of organising bribes in exchange for a 2007 contract for VVIP helicopters

New Delhi.

A court in United Arab Emirates (UAE) has ordered the extradition of an alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal to India, according to officials familiar with the development.

Michel, a British national, is wanted in India for allegedly organising bribes in exchange for a 2007 contract for VVIP helicopters for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters for use by top leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and former prime ministers.

He was detained in UAE this June and granted bail the following month.

“The court order, which is in Arabic, is being translated at the moment. The exact reasons for the court agreeing to extradite Michel to India are not know yet, but the order is for his extradition,” said a senior government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It was not clear whether Michel could appeal against the extradition order.

The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were jointly involved in the bid to extradite Michel, who was one of the key accused in the case.

The CBI investigators have long suspected that Michel was the conduit for routing bribe money to political contacts in India. There were two other middlemen in the deal who influenced the bureaucrats to swing the deal in favour AgustaWestland, they have said.

India had entered into an agreement with AgustaWestland to supply 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to ferry VVIP passengers. The deal was cancelled by India in 2014 over bribery allegations.

In September last year, the CBI had filed a charge sheeted against former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi and eight others — Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev alias Julie, Infotech legal advisor Gautam Khaitan, former Air Force vice-chief JS Gujral, former AgustaWestland chief executive officer Bruno Spagnolini, former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi and alleged middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke and Christian Michel — in the case.

Three companies — Finmeccanica, its UK-based subsidiary AgustaWestland, and Mohali-based IDS Infotech — were also charged.

The ED is probing the money-laundering aspect of the case and charged 34 Indians, foreign nationals and companies this July. “ED’s investigation revealed that the kickbacks were paid by AgustaWestland for bagging the VVIP chopper deal in India through two different channels.

One channel was handled by middleman Christian Michel James and the other channel was handled by Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke,” an ED official told Hindustan Times in July on the condition of anonymity.

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