Christian Michel James, a key accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, may soon be extradited to India from UAE, sources have revealed. Michel, a well-known British consultant, 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, one of the three main accused middlemen in the case, the others being Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, is being probed by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED). According to CBI, Michel was arrested in February 2017 by UAE authorities after CBI allegedly sent an extradition request.
After his arrest, Michel, through his sister and lawyer, made a sensational revelation that the CBI had put pressure on him to sign on a confession that said he had met former Congress president Sonia Gandhi when the deal was being negotiated in 2010. He also said that he refused to sign the confession as he had never met Sonia Gandhi in his life. He also alleged that the CBI had promised him a clean-chit in the case if he signs the confession.
The CBI denied the allegations. In response to a questionnaire sent by The Indian Express in this regard, the CBI had said, “Christian Michel James was arrested in February 2017 by UAE. He was not arrested this year as claimed by the defence lawyer. CBI team has not examined the fugitive Christian Michel James nor has it influenced him to extract a confession. The extradition proceedings against the fugitive are going on in UAE and the request for the extradition is being followed up.”
The Gandhi family name was dragged into the case following the recovery of a hand-written note from the possession of another middleman, Guido Haschke, where certain payment was mentioned against the word “family”. Michel has termed this note to be fake.
The claims made by Michel gave the Congress a chance to target the BJP-led central government of misusing the central probe agencies to “tarnish the image of the Opposition”. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala had said that Michel’s advocate Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos and his sister Sasha Ozemen have told India Today television channel that the “Modi government and its agencies were forcing him to sign a false confessional statement naming Gandhi in return for complete exoneration from any charge whatsoever in the AgustaWestland case”.
A prosecution complaint filed by ED last year had alleged that Michel paid several people in cash. In June this year, the ED told a Delhi special court that Michel allegedly received Euro 30 million as kickbacks and sent cash packets to various people through his driver and regularly met Indian individuals, including cousins of former Air Force chief S P Tyagi, while brokering the deal.
The investigative agency also claimed that Michel had helped in setting up a maze of shell companies to move illegal money outside India. While Michel set up Global Services FZE in Dubai, Haschke set up IDS Tunisia, IDS Mauritius, and Aeromatrix. Michel was supposed to get Euro 42 million while Haschke was to be given Euro 28 million, investigators claimed.