The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said it is examining the United Kingdom High Commission’s request for consular access to Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.
Michel was extradited to India from the United Arab Emirates late on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, a local court in Delhi granted the Central Bureau of Investigation five-day custody of the businessman. His extradition came hours after Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj held discussions with her UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the ministry had received extradition requests from the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. Michel was extradited after “following all due process [and] after exhausting all judicial process”, Kumar added.
“This is a reflection on the cooperation between India and UAE, which is a close strategic partner,” the spokesperson told reporters at a press briefing.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government signed the AgustaWestland helicopter deal in 2010 with the British-Italian firm. 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 believe brokered the deal.
Asked about the the Kartarpur corridor project, Kumar said it was “a fulfillment of the long standing demand of the Sikh community”. The corridor will link the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, where the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak is believed to have spent his last years, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.
“It is unfortunate that Pakistan attempted to politicise a religious issue,” he said. “We hope Pakistan will fulfill all its announcements in regards to the corridor,” ANI quoted him as saying.
India and Pakistan laid the foundation stone for the project last week. It was, however, overshadowed by discord between the two countries over the alleged role of Pakistan-based groups in a grenade attack in Amritsar on November 18.