In a big break to the investigative agencies in India, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) court on Tuesday allowed extradition of the alleged middleman Christian Michel, a British national, in the AgustaWestland scam. He is accused of organising bribes in exchange for a 2007 contract for the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters to be used by leaders including the President, Prime Minister and former prime ministers.
While the exact reasons for his extradition are not known, it is believed that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were jointly involved in the bid to extradite Michel in the Rs. 3,700 crore scam.
As per reports, the UAE court found merit in India’s arguments made for the extradition. It is alleged that Michel received around 30 million Euro from AgustaWestland for influencing the decision to reduce the service ceiling of helicopters from 6,000 mtrs to 4,500 mtrs in 2005, making AgustaWestland eligible for the contract.
Earlier in 2016, a document had surfaced that it was not just politicians, officials and agents who received alleged kickbacks from Michel, but even some celebrity journalists were also involved. The journalists were allegedly flown to Italy at the behest of the Italian arms dealing company and were paid a hefty sum to ensure that the coverage on the scam is ‘managed’. Other than Christian Michel, two Italian businessmen, Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke Ralph, are accused to be middlemen in the deal.
On 25 February 2013, CBI registered a preliminary enquiry against 11 persons including the former Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, and his cousins, besides four companies, which was followed by an FIR on 13 March which named 13 persons including former Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, his three brothers: Juli, Docsa and Sandeep, the brother of former Union minister Santosh Bagrodia, Satish Bagrodia, and Pratap Aggarwal (Chairman and Managing Director of IDS Infotech). The FIR also named four companies – Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix. You could also read the details of the scam here.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, is yet to decide on the extradition and India is still awaiting formal communication and confirmation from the UAE.