The middleman Christian Michel in the Agusta Westland Helicopter Scam was extradited by the Dubai Government and was brought to India by a special plane on December 5th. He is the witness and the accused alive in this Rs 3,600 Crore scam. It indeed is a great achievement of the Government to extradite and bring him to India. Calling it another Surgical Strike wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
The credit of this massive feat is due to the seamless coordination between NSA Ajit Doval and the CBI.
How did this action plan get in place? How did Ajit Doval plan it? What were the games Christian Michel played with CBI to dodge the imminent extradition?
CBI and other sources have revealed some startling details of the entire saga of how the plan unfolded and how, the unthinkable was achieved to extradite a man who possibly holds several secrets, Christian Michel.
This by no means is the first scam related to Agusta Westland. Its shenanigans extend up to South Korea, India and Panama. It had sold Westland Choppers to South Korean army by conniving with Army officials and those close to them by bribing them with amounts running into crores. Tenders were manipulated to make them eligible to supply Choppers of inferior quality. This scam got exposed and those Korean beneficiaries involved, including Army officials and middlemen, were punished.
It is common knowledge as to what happened in India. For VVIP transport, the specifications for the Choppers included its ability to fly at altitudes of 6000 meters. Agusta Westland choppers did not have required safety clearances to fly at those altitudes. In order to qualify and bag the tender, Agusta Westland attempted to exert influence to reduce this altitude to 4500 meters in the tender specification. Christian Michel is the middleman who allegedly bribed then ruling Congress family. To get flying clearances, he also allegedly bribed Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi through his sister, Julie Tyagi.
In Panama, Agusta Westland had sold military equipment and choppers. Since the accusation of kickback was directly against their President, the agreement was cancelled. All this information is available in the UK based Corruption Watch report. This may not constitute official records, authorities have conducted anti-corruption operations based on these documents.
Entry of Christian Michel
Christain Michel was not part of this deal in the initial stages. Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini were allegedly in India much before him. In 2013, in Italy, they were charged with invoicing fraud and corruption charges and sent to jail.
After several stages of legal fights, Italian courts finally sentence them for 2 years in prison on charges of Invoicing fraud. In the interim, they had appointed 3 middlemen for India. Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel. In the beginning, the deal was being managed by Haschke but since Christian Michel was a resident of Dubai and with excellent relationship with India and Congress family and also with good knowledge of Indian market, Haschke brought Michel to the forefront.
In October 2014, Italian Supreme Court overturned the verdicts of lower courts and ordered that it was not only an invoicing fraud but corruption was also involved. At this juncture, all 3 middlemen nominated by Orsi and Spagnolini were in different countries and thus escaped action.
The plan behind the arrest of Michel
In view of the charges against him in Italy, UK Citizen Michel became a resident of Dubai and used to surface off and on. On knowing that CBI and Indian Intelligence agencies were on the lookout, he used to disguise himself wearing long robes like Arab Muslims and vanish. It is said he escaped once, disguised as a woman.
But this game did not play out for long. On July 18th, he was arrested by Dubai police. How did this happen? It was based on information that NSA Ajit Doval and CBI had in their possession and with his knowledge. Dubai police were informed about the exact arrival time, the Emirate flight details including the country of embarkation. They were also informed that if he is not arrested from the airport, he has something else up his sleeve.
Had it been anyone else other than Michel, Dubai Police would have extradited from the airport itself, which is the actual law of UAE. Since the catch was among the top 10 defence company’s middleman, they arrested him and took him to a Jail. Thereafter he was produced before a court on August 26th. However, he was released on bail on September 2nd.
Christian Michel controlled misinformation campaign using Indian Media?
Michel is a big ticket player of these games and is not to be underestimated. The moment he got bail from Dubai court, Indian Media started spreading false information. The headlines screamed ‘setback to ED and CBI’. Some even asserted that everytime the Dubai court had asked India to produce necessary documents, India had failed to comply.
It is a well-known fact that Christian Michel had media personnel on his payrolls. However, the media is generally managed in a far more sophisticated manner. Sources believe that Michel fed misinformation through his trusted channels to send media on wild goose chases. Since the media is not inclined to confirm facts, the misinformation to tarnish CBI, ED and undermine the operation was spread far and wide.
Officials spent sleepless nights
A 12-year-old scam not only had to be solved within 4 years but also arrests had to be made. This was not an easy task. They had to study more than 2 Lakh files and records. Credit is due to the officials concerned for their diligent efforts in studying, understanding technicalities of Choppers, aircraft, Agusta Westland, Christian Michel, collating all evidence and then studying it in minute details to establish the links. A fact to be appreciated is that this was facilitated and supported completely by Ajit Doval.
Dubai-UK close relationship
The Operation to bring Christian Michel back to India was not limited to Dubai alone. This is precisely the reason why this can be considered as a second surgical strike. Dubai and United Kingdom share an extremely close bilateral relationship. UK is considered the architect of basic infrastructure in UAE. Most of the projects have been designed, executed by the UK. In other words, UK was a very important and much-needed ally of Dubai. It is in view of this special relationship that Michel despite being a UK Citizen established his residence, his business in Dubai for the past decade.
He was confident that India just a sea-hop away would not be able to touch him. The documentary evidence submitted by CBI/ED was so thorough and powerful that it could not be disregarded by Dubai courts and they had no options but to extradite Michel.
Michel-CBI dialogue and extradition
Michel lost his appeal in Dubai courts on November 20th. If the Law Minister had taken a view that since he is not a citizen of UK, he cannot be extradited would have been the entire exercise futile and there was nothing left for CBI to pursue. Despite getting clearance from the courts, Indian officials did not rejoice but waited patiently till December 4th.
Not sure if India was lucky or if Michel’s luck ran out, even the Law Minister took a stand that Court’s verdict is final. That very moment the team got the most awaited communication from Dubai police for extradition. Once this message was received, CBI had just a few (less than 4) hours to arrange for a special plane. Once again it was Ajit Doval who was the saviour. With his help even this was achieved well within time – a special aircraft was waiting in Dubai.
Christain Michel arrived and boarded the aircraft. He was extremely irritated and angry. It was also noticed by the CBI Officials. Sometime during his travel, he initiated a conversation on his own. He claimed “This extradition process is illegal and done by deception. I am being hijacked”. Not to be beaten down, the officials replied, “It was only a matter of time, if not today, tomorrow you would have to come. Even Dubai disowned and did not retain you realizing that you have been in illegal business, despite your persistent efforts. Do not pontificate to us about law and morality.” Shocked by this response, Michel kept quiet.
Upon arrival in Delhi, he was received by other CBI with a “Welcome to Delhi!” greeting.
Dubai Police provided great hospitality to the Indian officials. Even the officials acknowledged that the reason for this is the political acumen and strategy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, Indian officials did not accept any hospitality. Remaining extremely cordial to the hosts, they stayed and used facilities paid in full by them, as per Indian Government norms. Their objective was one: Get Christian Michel to India. Period
‘India police are morons’
We have an image of Indian police as people with a paunch, unfit, silly and converse on those lines about them. It was no different when Agusta Westland middlemen conversed amongst them – “Indian police are morons (They always used this as a code word to refer police). Even if we are caught, no one will know what it is about. They will not even find a sign of corruption because we have paid the Army man’s family only by cash. It thus will not be traceable. At the most, we may have some issues with Taxes. By the time these morons find documents and arrange evidence, it would be decades”.
However, the extradition took precisely 4 years since the Modi government came to power. As they say, the proof was in the pudding.
When I asked my source how this entire plan was made possible, his answer was rather simple. Prime Minister Modi left them to do their work without interference, and, of course, there is always Ajit Doval.
Chiranjeevi Bhat, also known as Chiru Bhat is a journalist at Hosa-Diganta. Previously he has worked in Vishwavaani, Kannada Prabha, Suvarna News 24/7 and Samaya News. His writings will be mainly on security related issues, politics, distortion and appropriation.