Agusta middleman extradited to India

Agusta middleman extradited to India

Michel, who was arrested in the UAE last year and was out on bail, is wanted in India in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

Christian Michel, the suspected middleman in the UPA-era AgustaWestland scam, was extradited to India on Tuesday, a development that comes months ahead of Lok Sabha elections and could put the Congress in a tight spot.

Michel landed in New Delhi from Dubai on Tuesday night.

The Narendra Modi government has been pursuing the extradition of Michel in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal case for quite some time, even as the Congress accused it of foul play after Michel claimed he was being pressured to name UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in the case.

The UAE paved the way for his extradition after Dubai’s highest court — The Court of Cassation — turned down Michel’s appeal against a lower court order allowing his extradition. Sources said Dubai’s Ministry of Justice cleared the final hurdle for extradition and he was brought to Dubai International airport on Tuesday evening from where he was put on a flight to India.

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Michel’s extradition will be part of a BJP narrative against the main Opposition party Congress in the Lok Sabha polls where it is likely to allege that the middlemen in the multi-crore deal paid top politicians like Sonia.

They will also rake up the purported entries in a diary maintained by Michel where the then prime minister Manmohan Singh and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel have been mentioned as Sonia’s key advisors. There was also a mention about 15 to 16 million euros for a “family” and another three million for the initials “AP”. However, these entries were not explained.

Michel, who was arrested in the UAE last year and was out on bail, is wanted in India in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case. India had sought Michel’s extradition last year in cases investigated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The CBI FIR had said there was an estimated loss of Euros 398.21 million (around Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal signed by the UPA government in February 2010 for supply of VVIP choppers worth Euros 556.262 million. The CBI had earlier arrested former Air Force chief S P Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan.

The investigators have claimed that Michel, one of the three suspected middlemen, received ‎EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland. According to a chargesheet filed by the ED, this was nothing but “kickbacks” paid to Indian politicians and bureaucrats for firming up the 12 VVIP purchases and these transactions were disguised as genuine.

The ED found that remittances made by Michel to a Delhi firm through his Dubai-based Global Service were made from the funds he got from AgustaWestland through “criminal activity”. It had also claimed that AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini was paying “kickbacks” to Michel and two other middlemen in the guise of numerous “consultancy contracts”.

The chargesheet said a Delhi firm set up by Michel, who has an Interpol Red Corner Notice on him, was a “shell company” to “launder the proceeds of crime”. Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.