Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, was sent to a five-day CBI custody on Wednesday by a special court in Delhi. He will again be produced in the court on December 10.
Michel’s extradition from Dubai on late Tuesday night had triggered a political snowball, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi claiming he will spill secrets of Congress leaders.
Michel’s extradition comes six years after his alleged involvement in the purchase of VVIP helicopters first surfaced in 2012.
Lawyer who appeared for Christian Michel expelled by Youth Congress
Aljo K Joseph, who represented Christian Michel in a Delhi court today, was expelled by the Youth Congress, for which he reportedly worked as the National Incharge for Indian Youth Congress legal department.
Amrish Ranjan Pandey, IYC, Spokesperson said: “Aljo K Joseph appeared (for Mitchel) in his personal capacity. He didn’t consult Youth Congress before appearing in the case. IYC does not endorse such actions. IYC has removed Aljo Joseph from IYC’s Legal Dept and expelled him from the party with immediate effect.”
Amrish Ranjan Pandey, IYC, Spox: Aljo K Joseph appeared in his personal capacity. He didn’t consult Youth Congress before appearing in the case. IYC does NOT endorse such actions.IYC has removed Aljo Joseph from IYC’s Legal Dept&expelled him from the party with immediate effect. pic.twitter.com/Vo5xJ5F8ok
— ANI (@ANI) December 5, 2018
Earlier, Joseph was seen meeting the Congress general secretary Deepak Babaria at the party Headquarters in Delhi, ANI reported.
Political storm over Michel’s extradition
Months ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and with the state Assembly polls underway, Michel’s extradition to India, which followed a meeting between India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with her UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is being seen as a political thorn for the opposition Congress which was in power at the centre when the alleged scam took place.
At a rally in Rajasthan, that goes to poll on December 7, the prime minister took on the Congress party. “The government has brought the middleman involved in a helicopter scam from Dubai. He served politicians and will now disclose secrets. Let’s see how far this goes,” he said.
The Congress retorted, saying the party has made its stand clear on the issue and that the BJP was “latching” on to Michel for a “smear campaign” against opposition leaders. Party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “the 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.”
ED to grill Michel over shell firms
The Enforcement Directorate has said it will question Michel over purported creation of “shell firms” in India and abroad by him and others to launder bribe money that he received for the Augusta deal.
The central probe agency is expected to either seek fresh custody of Michel or move an application for questioning of the accused alongside the CBI under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The agency may also file a fresh (supplementary) charge sheet in this case detailing the role of other accused.
The ED, with the CBI, is probing the alleged kickbacks paid to swing the deal to buy 12 VVIP choppers in favour of AgustaWestland.
Who is Christian Michel
Christian Michel was among the alleged middlemen who brokered the AgustaWestland 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.
It was alleged that he had entered into a criminal conspiracy with co-accused persons, which included the then IAF chief SP Tyagi and his family members, and the public servants had abused their official positions by reducing service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6,000 m to 4,500 m.
The reduction in the ceiling made AgustaWestland eligible for the contract worth 556.262 million Euros, which was awarded to it by the Defence Ministry on February 08, 2010, for procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters. On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italy-based Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over the alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.
Michel was arrested last year by UAE authorities after a request from India to extradite him. He was also detained recently for 45 days by authorities when he made a sensational claim through his lawyer of being put under pressure to name members of the Gandhi family in the scam. The CBI has denied the allegations.
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