British middleman hauled to India over chopper scam

Frederick Owens
December 5, 2018

In his rally in Rajasthan on the last day of campaigning before the state elections on Friday, Modi referred to the extradition of Michel saying, "The government has brought the middleman involved in a helicopter scam from Dubai".

Christian Michel James is accused of arranging kickbacks to Indian officials to secure a deal for AgustaWestland to supply New Delhi with 12 helicopters for 556 million euros ($630 million).

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a statement, alleged that facing "imminent defeat" in state polls, Prime Minister Modi and the BJP government were seeking to "weave a web of lies" and construct a "mesh of deception to hoodwink" the people of India in the chopper case.

The Enforcement Directorate also charged Mr. Michel and several others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The agency said that Michel has been brought back to India after completion of the extradition process. On page 204 of the judgment, a 2008 letter seized from the home of middleman Haschke has been cited to argue in the court that key players were targeting top UPA leadership to swing the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal.

Among the foreign nationals listed are former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi, former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolili, Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

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Michel has denied all the charges. At present, Michel is at the CBI headquarters in the national capital where he is being probed by the agency officials.

In a prosecution complaint filed past year, the ED had alleged that Michel had paid several people in cash. Although he managed to wriggle out from the legal tussle in UAE, the CBI requested for extradition on 19 March 2017 through diplomatic channels.

Mr. Michel entered into 12 contracts through his two firms - Global Trade & Commerce Limited (U.K.) and Global Services FZE (Dubai) - with Finmeccanica, its subsidiary AgustaWestland, Westland Helicopters U.K. and others, allegedly to legitimise the illicit commission on the procurement. The contract was frozen in February 2013 after allegations surfaced that Rs 3,600 crore was paid as a bribe. "During the above meeting they had negotiated a comprehensive fees equal to 7% of the supply contract amount to cover the expenses and fees of both of them".

On the basis of the non-bailable arrest warrant, Interpol too issued a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him.

According to sources, James was a frequent visitor to India, operating as a middleman for defence procurements through a network of sources he had cultivated in the IAF and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at different levels, including retired officials.

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