A court in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday ordered the extradition of Christian Michel, the alleged British middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal, to India, media reports said.
Michel is wanted in India for allegedly organising the payment of bribes to Indian defence officials in exchange for a contract for 12 luxury helicopters. He was detained in the UAE in June but was granted bail the following month.
“The court order, which is in Arabic, is being translated at the moment,” an unidentified senior government official told the Hindustan Times. “The exact reasons for the court agreeing to extradite Michel to India are not known yet, but the order is for his extradition.”
Both the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation have been trying to extradite Michel. As per the law, he can appeal against the order.
The Central Bureau of Investigation told NDTV that it was yet to receive an official confirmation of the extradition order. In the case of UAE, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decides the fate of an accused against whom the court has given an extradition order, ANI reported quoting unidentified officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.
The AgustaWestland helicopter deal, which has snowballed into a huge controversy, relates to an agreement that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government signed with the British-Italian firm in 2007. The deal was put on hold after Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company, on charges of paying bribes to win the contract. Michel is one of three suspected middlemen who Indian investigative agencies suspect of brokering the deal.
In September 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against former Air Force chief SP Tyagi and 13 others, including Tyagi’s three cousins and Michel.
The agency has accused Tyagi and two others of accepting kickbacks and said the deal was worth Rs 3,767 crore, of which 12% was paid in bribes. Tyagi was granted bail on December 26, 2016, while the others got relief on January 4, 2017.
Tyagi also got bail from the Delhi High Court on Wednesday in a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the deal.