A day after the British High Commission in New Delhi sought consular access to Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, the CBI Thursday said the request had been received via the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and was being legally examined since Michel had been brought to India through the extradition process from the UAE on court orders.
A British national, Michel was sent to CBI custody for five days by a Delhi court Wednesday after the agency said it needed to confront him with certain documents and question him on the money trail in the case being probed for alleged irregularities.
A senior official confirmed that the request had been received and was being vetted legally whether court permission was required before allowing consular access since Michel was extradited from the UAE and not arrested in India. “Once clearance is given, consular access will be given in the next couple of days,” the official told The Indian Express.
Earlier in the day, MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “I can confirm to you that we have received a request for consular access from the British High Commission. The matter is being examined and we will revert to the British High Commission soon.”
CBI officials said Michel was being questioned in detail about his ties with the former CEO and president of AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica, his visits to India, the people he met and his contacts in Delhi and Mumbai. As directed by the court, Michel’s lawyers met him at the CBI headquarters, officials said. On reports of Michel’s anxiety attacks, officials said “due medical attention” was being given to the 57 year-old.
The CBI claims that Michel entered into 12 contracts through two of his firms, Global Trade & Commerce Ltd, London and Global Services FZE, Dubai, UAE, with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Westland Helicopters UK to legitimise the “illicit commission on the procurement of VVIP Helicopters by Ministry of Defence”. An amount of 42.27million euros (then around Rs 295 crore) was paid by the Finmeccanica Group to Michel’s firms as kickbacks/bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of the amount, the CBI said.