The family of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland helicopter case, has decided to approach the United Nations after several reports claimed that the businessman was extradited from Dubai after India sent back runaway Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa last year, The Times of India reported on Wednesday.
Latifa, the daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, fled Dubai in March 2018 on a yacht headed to Goa after accusing her family of torturing her. She was accompanied by a French spy and a Finnish friend, and was reportedly planning to seek asylum in India. However, India allegedly intercepted her yacht about 50 km off the Goa coast. New Delhi is accused of forcibly returning Latifa home. The United Nations’ human rights body has asked the Indian government to explain her disappearance.
After rights groups called on the UAE to disclose her whereabouts, the foreign minister of the UAE in December released photographs of the princess meeting former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
Michel, a British citizen, was extradited to Delhi in December from Dubai, where he runs a weapons business. He is in judicial custody at present and is being questioned for his suspected role in the Agusta bribery scam. Earlier this month, the Indian government granted the British High Commission consular access to Michel.
Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Telegraph that they believe Michel was extradited in exchange for Latifa. “That there was a swap deal is my understanding too,” an unidentified lawyer from Michel’s legal team told the British newspaper on Sunday.
London-based international human rights lawyer Toby Cadman, who took Latifa’s case to the United Nations, is now advising the Michel family, according to The Times of India. Cadman said the allegations of a swap have been raised on more than one occasion.
“It is a matter that will need to be properly investigated and this is a matter which will be taken to the UN,” Cadman told the newspaper. “I cannot divulge at this time the nature of the evidence as this will need to be presented to the appropriate judicial authority. I can confirm there are serious concerns as to the nature and procedure concerning the extradition from the UAE to India and that will need to be properly scrutinised.”
Cadman said there was no proper legal basis to hold Michel and asked India to discharge the businessman immediately. “The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention can look into the case and issue an opinion on the legality and/or arbitrariness of detention, and, if they consider appropriate, recommend his release,” he added.
Radha Stirling of UAE-based non-governmental organisation Detained in Dubai has accused India and the UAE of disregarding “standard norms of diplomatic relations”. “The capture of Latifa was reportedly arranged over a phone call between Sheikh Mohammed and Prime Minister Modi; and the extradition of Christian Michel was fast-tracked shortly thereafter,” Stirling told The Sunday Telegraph. “This is not the kind of cooperation between states that reflects respect for the rule of law.”