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AgustaWestland chopper case: Not received any communication regarding Christian Michel’s extradition, says CBI

New Delhi: The Indian authorities said on Wednesday they have not received any communication from the UAE regarding the extradition order of British national Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, even as they claimed that a court there had ruled that he can be extradited.

“The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not received any communication regarding Michel’s extradition from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA),” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said here. The MEA is the agency concerned that gets notified about the proceedings regarding any wanted persons in other countries.  It then informs the investigating agencies in the country. The CBI official’s remarks came amid the media reports that a United Arab Emirates (UAE) court has ordered the extradition of Michel to India in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

Official sources also said that the UAE has not communicated to MEA yet on extradition of Michel. It is learnt that the UAE government had approached the court late last month asking if Michel, a British national, can be extradited to a third country–India. And then apparently the court on September 2 said that he can be extradited The Indian missiion in UAE has been asked to find out information on this. In January this year, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing Michel. Both the ED and the CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.

Last year, a red corner notice was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the scam — Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke. According to Indian investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013. On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract. The FIR mentioned charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and those under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The operational flight ceiling of the choppers was reduced from 6,000 metres, as originally proposed, to 4,500 metres and the cabin height was brought down to 1.8 metres.

The twin modifications were allegedly meant to rig the deal in favour of AgustaWestland, which eventually walked away with the order to supply the 12 choppers for the Communication Squadron of the IAF for ferrying the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs. The CBI probe revealed that several payments were made to the Tyagis by Haschke, Gerosa and Michel. Tyagi, who was IAF chief from 2004 to 2007, his cousin and Khaitan were arrested in December last year by the agency. They are now out on bail.

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