A Delhi court Wednesday sent Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, to five-day CBI custody. Michel was extradited to India from Dubai late Tuesday night. On his arrival in India, he was taken to the CBI headquarters for questioning.
54-year-old Michel was among the alleged middlemen who brokered the chopper deal and who, investigators claim, paid bribes to officials and politicians to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland, the British arm of Italian firm Finmeccanica. The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (approximately Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million.
Michel’s extradition comes six years after his alleged involvement in the purchase of VVIP helicopters first surfaced in 2012.
VVIP chopper case: Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in AgustaWestland chopper case, was produced before court today.
British High Commission seeks consular access to Christian Michel
The British High Commission sought consular access to Christian Michel, the British national who was sent to a five-day custody of the CBI on Wednesday, a day after he was brought here from the UAE to face probe in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal scam.
A spokesperson of the High Commission said information has been sought from the Indian authorities urgently on Michel's "circumstances".
Congress had blacklisted AgustaWestland, Modi lifted it
The Congress on Wednesday said the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were "latching" on to Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal who was extradited to India from Dubai, for a "smear campaign" against opposition leaders.
Congress government had investigated against AgustaWestland company, blacklisted it and recovered money from the company. When Modi Ji came, he protected, benefited and lifted the blacklist off the company, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Christian Michel's lawyer meets Congress general secretary, says relation with party is 'separate'
Lawyer of Christian Michel, Aljo K Joseph, met Congress General Secretary Deepak Babaria at the party Headquarters in Delhi, ANI reported. He later told the news agency he is representing Michel in his professional capacity as a lawyer and that his relationship with the Congress party is 'separate'. When asked what position he holds in the Congress party, Joseph reportedly said he is the "National Incharge for Indian Youth Congress legal department."
Congress' stand clear, PM should explain about Rafale: Rahul Gandhi on Christian Michel
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said his party has made its stand clear on the extradition of alleged middleman Christian Michel in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should explain why he gave Rs 30,000 crore on Rafale to Anil Ambani.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Hyderabad on #AgustaWestland : Congress party has made its position very very clear in this matter earlier in a press conference. The Prime Minister should explain why he gave Rs 30,000 Crore on Rafale to Mr Anil Ambani. #ChristianMichel pic.twitter.com/4cJC6bPTkJ— ANI (@ANI) December 5, 2018
Christian Michel sent to 5-day CBI custody
A special CBI court on Wednesday remanded alleged middleman Christian Michel to five-day CBI custodial interrogation. The investigation agency had sought for his remand to "confront him with some important documents" in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case.
Need to confront Michel with important documents: CBI
The CBI has sought for a police custody of alleged middleman Christian Michel in the AgustaWestland chopper case. CBI Counsel Advocate DP Singh said before the CBI Special Court, "We need his police custody to confront him with some important documents," ANI reported.
Christian Michel produced before Delhi court
Christian Michel was produced before the Patiala House Court today in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case. Special judge Arvind Kumar allowed advocate Alzo K Joseph, who claims to represent Michel, to talk to his client in courtroom. Michel's lawyer has requested the court to send him to judicial custody. The CBI has sought for his remand.
Michel lawyer asks to send him to judicial custody. Court asks CBI to provide copy of c'sheet to Michel counsel. @IndianExpress— rahul tripathi (@rahultripathi) December 5, 2018
Christian Michel taken to Delhi court
Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, is being taken to Delhi's Patiala House Court. He will be produced before Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar. Security has been beefed up with 15-20 personnel of the CRPF and 30 Delhi Police officials deputed in the court complex.
Christian Michel will ‘disclose secrets’ of politicians he served: PM Modi
Security beefed up in Patiala court where Christian Michel is to be produced
Security has been tightened at the Patiala House court complex where Christian Michel will be produced later in the day. Around 15-20 personnel of the CRPF and 30 Delhi Police officials have been deputed in the court complex as well as outside several of its gates, said one of the police officials.
He will be produced before Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar later in the day.
Wonder how many names will come out: PM Modi on Michel's extradition
On the last day of the campaign in Rajasthan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked how a 'chaiwala' has managed to extradite corrupt individuals from abroad. Referring to Christine Michel said, "This has not been done by Modi government. This is because of your vote. We brought back the middleman Rajdaar (Christian Michel) of Naamdaars (Gandhi's) from Dubai. I wonder how many names will spill out when he breaks his silence."
Does opposition want to save him (Christian Michel): Amit Shah in Rajasthan
During a press conference in Rajasthan, a journalist posed a question to BJP chief Amit Shah that the Opposition believes the extradition of Christian Michel was done to divert attention of people from other issues. Responding to the question, Shah asked, "Shouldn't we be catching the middleman involved in a multi million dollar scam?"
BJP President Amit Shah in Jaipur: Opposition has no other issue, what is wrong if we nabbed the middleman? Does the opposition want to save him? #ChristianMichel #Rajasthan pic.twitter.com/kq2n3qT0Qi— ANI (@ANI) December 5, 2018
Who is Christian Michel?
Christian Michel has been alleged to be a "historical consultant" of the AgustaWestland helicopters in the UK with technical operational knowledge of the aircraft, the military bases and the pilots, the CBI spokesperson said in a statement. He was allegedly hired by AgustaWestland to influence top officials in IAF and the then UPA government to help secure the Rs 3,600 crore deal for the company.
Michel was allegedly a frequent visitor to India and was operating as a middleman for defence procurement through a wide network of sources cultivated in the IAF and the Defence Ministry at different levels, including through retired and serving IAF officials, the agency said. Michel allegedly shared the information collected from the IAF and the ministry with his associates, who used to transmit the despatches through fax to other counterparts sitting in Italy and Switzerland, the CBI said.
"...He was updating and informing the management of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, namely Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini and others, about his efforts in India for securing supply contract of VVIP Helicopters," the statement said.
Michel, one of the three main accused middlemen in the case, the others being Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa
Why is Christian Michel's extradition, expected to create a political storm?
Claiming that Michel was "known to be a Gandhi-family loyalist", BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said "Extradition of Christian Michel is a shot in the arm for the Narendra Modi government. Now that he will be available to the CBI, the 'real' bribe-receivers of the AgustaWestland bribes scandal will be exposed." He also said, "his extradition and custody could spell serious trouble for the Congress' first family". The Congress has denied all allegations against its leaders in connection with the deal cracked during the UPA era.
In the run-up to elections, his arrival is expected to create a political storm, since Italian probe authorities claim to have discovered a handwritten note that mentioned payments against code words such as “pol”, “Bur” and “Family”. Michel has called this note to be fake.
In July, Michel’s lawyer Rosemary Patrizi and his sister Sasha Ozeman had said that Michel had been detained by authorities in Dubai and that CBI officials had interrogated him. They claimed that the officials had put pressure on him to sign on a confession that said he had met UPA chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi when the deal was being negotiated.
What is the AgustaWestland scam?
The Congress-led UPA government had in February 2010 signed a contract with UK-based helicopter manufacturing company AgustaWestland to purchase 12 AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force for Rs 3,600 crore. These helicopters were supposed to be used for ferrying the President of India, the Prime Minister, and other such VVIPs.
It was, however, alleged that technical specifications of the required choppers were tweaked — including lowering of the service ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 m to 4,500 m —to help AgustaWestland qualify and win the bid. AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica allegedly paid kickbacks to win the VVIP chopper deal with the Indian Air Force.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal. The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of approximately Rs 3,600 crore to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million. Read more
How was Christian Michel extradited to India?
Christain Michel was wanted by investigation agencies in India after his name surfaced in the VVIP chopper deal. He, however, avoided joining the probe. India officially made the request to the Gulf nation in 2017 for his extradition, based on the criminal investigations conducted in the case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Michel was arrested but was out on bail.
The extradition procedure took place after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held discussions with UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi.
Christian Michel's extradition a serious trouble for Congress' 'first family': BJP
Christian Michel's extradition can work in favour of Modi government. Michel is particularly important to the BJP as the accusations against him relate to the period when the Congress was in power.
The BJP said the extradition in the case era is a diplomatic victory for India and could spell "serious trouble" for the Congress's "first family", referring to the Gandhis. It also asserted that the development was an unequivocal affirmation of the Narendra Modi government's "seriousness in fighting corruption", reported PTI.
Welcome to the live blog. Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in AgustaWestland chopper case landed in New Delhi late Tuesday night. He will be produced before the court today. Follow this space to track the latest developments