The UK government has asked India to provide urgent information on the circumstances surrounding the extradition of Christian Michel - the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers scam case. Michel, a British national was extradited to India from Dubai on Tuesday night. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the agency investigating the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case, on Wednesday produced Michel before a special CBI court in New Delhi. The court sent him on a five-day CBI custody.
A spokesperson for the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that they were supporting the family of Michel following his detention in the UAE from where he was extradited to India.
“We are in contact with his family and the Emirati authorities regarding his case, and are urgently seeking information from the Indian authorities on his circumstances," the spokesperson said.
The CBI claims that Michel is one of the three middlemen who brokered the VVIP choppers deal with the Indian Air Force. He had allegedly paid a bribe to officials and politicians to help AgustaWestland - the British arm of Italian firm Finmeccanica - get the contract from the Indian government to purchase 12 AW101 helicopters.
In its chargesheet, the CBI alleged that Christian Michel visited India 25 times and stayed in Hotel Ashoka and Claridges in Delhi and ITC Windsor in Bengaluru when the deal was being signed.
While acting as the middleman in the deal, Michel procured confidential documents and secret information from the defence ministry and the Indian Air Force and shared it with AgustaWestland executives in London.
According to a separate chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate, Michel received around Rs 225 crore from AgustaWestland. The probe agency claimed that the money was nothing but ‘kickbacks’ paid by the firm to execute the 12 VVIP helicopters deal in favour of the company.
What is AgustaWestland VVIP choppers scam?
The case pertains to the Indian government’s deal to purchase 12 AW101 helicopters from AgustaWestland. The deal was signed by the then Congress-led UPA government in February 2010. The choppers were supposed to ferry VVIPs, including the President of India, the Prime Minister. However, controversies surrounded the deal after reports that Finmeccanica paid a huge amount of money to several officials and politicians to win the VVIP choppers deal with the Indian Air Force.
It was alleged that the some of the technical specifications were changed to help AgustaWestland bag the deal. According to a CBI claim, the deal had cost the taxpayers a loss of approximately Rs 2,666 crore.