AgustaWestland chopper case accused extradited to India

Indian on Tuesday won a diplomatic victory in the fight against corruption by getting extradited from UAE the middleman involved in the $509 million AgustaWestland luxury helicopter deal.

Christian Michel, who is said to have facilitated kickbacks to Indian bureaucrats and politicians, including one family, in the purchase of 12 helicopters for use by top leaders in 2007, will be produced before a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge at the Patiala House court on Wednesday.

The CBI is expected to briefly present the case before the special judge, highlight Michel’s key role in the money trail and seek his custody for interrogation.

He is likely to be questioned especially over some abbreviations and figures in euros against each of them found in his diary seized by Swiss authorities and handed over to CBI. He had admitted to paying 29 million euros to one family.

If Michel concedes that some of the abbreviations point to Indian politicians and the figures in euros mean kickbacks each of them received, it could cause an upheaval ahead of the general elections which are just months away.

Earlier, a special plane of the UAE government carrying Michel and Indian officials arrived at the Delhi international airport around 11pm. He was first taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for examination where he complained of dizziness.

From there, he was brought at 1.20am to the CBI headquarters where a small team of journalists had gathered at the main gate.

Michel just smiled when journalists asked him whether he was going to tell the truth about the kickbacks in the chopper deal.

Michel is a British national and there is concern that the UK, which is sensitive to cases involving its citizens abroad, may intervene.

The painstaking extradition procedure of Michel codenamed ‘Operation Unicorn’ involving over a dozen officers was guided by India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and coordinated by In-charge CBI Director M Nageswara Rao.

Michel was detained in UAE in June this year at India’s request. India cancelled the AgustaWestland deal after the bribery scandal broke out in 2014.

Spokesman of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party GVL Narasimha Rao said Michel’s extradition could spell trouble for the Gandhis who head the Congress party.

Rao described Michel as a Gandhi-family loyalist.