New Delhi: AgustaWestland chopper deal middleman ChristianMichel lands at Delhi IGI airport. Christian Michel James, a British national and a middleman, has been extradited to India by the United Arab Emirates, a development that comes as a boost to Indian agencies investigating the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
“Wanted fugitive criminal Christian Michel James who has been avoiding criminal proceedings in India in AgustaWestland case is being extradited by UAE Authorities to India. Under the guidance of Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor (NSA), the entire operation is being coordinated by interim CBI Director M. Nageswara Rao,” CBI said in a presse note.
A team led by Joint CBI Director A. Sai Manohar has been to Dubai for the purpose, said the note. Official sources said he had been taken to the Dubai International Airport for a flight to Delhi.
They indicated that James will land at the Indira Gandhi International Airport late in the night. The action comes after the Court of Cassation in UAE had in November upheld a lower court order which said that James,57, could be extradited to India.
According to the report, James was kept under detention at the Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as per the Indian government’s request. The extradition is undertaken in coordination with the Interpol and CID.
James is one of three middlemen being probed in the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the scam.
In January, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing James. Both the ED and CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.
Last year, a Red Corner notice was issued against James by the Interpol on a request by CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the scam — Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.
According to Indian investigative agencies, James had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013.
The ED officials earlier had said that bribes to James were paid through a web of companies located abroad and in India on the pretext of payment for consultancy work. James also used his Dubai-based firm Global Services FZE as a conduit for money.
In its chargesheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then IAF Vice Chief J.S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan as the four Indians involved in the scam.
The chargesheet mentioned Khaitan as the “brain” behind the deal. The others named in the chargesheet included Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen Michel, Haschke and Gerosa.
On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.
The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.