Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal who was extradited to India late Tuesday night, is the 20th individual to have been brought from United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last decade-and-half.
Since 2002, 19 people have been brought back to India, but Michel’s extradition marks a key difference. While the previous 19 fugitives were all Indian nationals, Michel is the first non-Indian to have been brought to India from the UAE.
Sources told The Indian Express that though Michel is a British national, the Indian side did not inform or coordinate with the British authorities about his extradition. “That would have complicated the extradition of Michel,” a source said, while indicating that the issue of fugitives, including Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi, were pending with the UK.
UAE, a partner of India for a decade-and-a-half
Christian Michel 20th individual to be extradited from the UAE — the highest from any country. While much is made of the recent bonhomie between leaders at the highest level, the relationship has been steady since former PM Vajpayee’s term, and was sustained during Manmohan Singh’s tenure. The Narendra Modi government has been much more visible in embracing the relationship, with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit as the Republic Day chief guest being the high point in recent years.
According to official data shared by Ministry of External Affairs, while 68 fugitives have been brought back to India since 2002 — either through extradition or deportation — almost one-third of them, that is 20, have come from UAE. This is the highest from any single country from where Indian fugitives have been brought back to the country.
Of 20 fugitives brought back from UAE since 2002, eight were brought during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government (up to May 2004), nine during UPA’s 10-year term, and three have been brought back during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s term.
“Michel’s extradition is symbolic of the close cooperation with the UAE in the last decade-and-a-half on the issue of security and law enforcement,” the source said.
In March 2018, Farooq Yasin Mansoor or Farooq Takla, who was the “active conspirator” behind the 1993 Mumbai blasts and a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, was deported from the UAE.
In November 2015, Abdul Wahid Siddibapa, the alleged financer of Indian Mujahideen (IM), who was caught in UAE in 2014 based on a red corner notice, was brought to India using lengthy process of extradition.
Abdul Karim Tunda, wanted in connection with terror cases, was extradited to India from UAE in August 2013. Iqbal Kaskar, Izaz Pathan and Mustafa Ahmed Dosa — all accused in Mumbai blasts — were extradited in 2002-2003.
While quiet diplomacy between Delhi and Abu Dhabi has worked effectively, diplomats say visits by top leaders has contributed to the momentum.
“India-UAE bilateral relations have received impetus from time-to-time with exchange of high-level visits from both sides. The historic visit of Prime Minister to UAE on August 16-17, 2015 marked, the beginning of a new comprehensive and strategic partnership,” an Indian government source said.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, also visited India from February 10-12, 2016, and had held wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues. This was followed by another visit from January 24-26, 2017, as the chief guest at Republic Day celebrations.
Michel was arrested by UAE authorities a month later in February 2017 on an Interpol Red Notice. The CBI filed a chargesheet in the court in September 2017 against Michael and 11 other accused in the case. After the trial court took cognizance of the offences in October 2017, the CBI’s request for extradition was forwarded to UAE authorities in March 2017.
Extradition proceedings were held before UAE court against Michel on CBI’s extradition request. On November 19 this year, the Court of Dubai upheld a lower court’s decision for possibility of extraditing Michel. He was extradited Tuesday.