Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 36 billion AgustaWestland helicopter deal, was arrived in India in the wee hours of Wednesday after being extradited from Dubai. He was taken straight to the CBI headquarters from the airport.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took James, 57, under its custody as soon as he arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport around 11 PM in a special aircraft, accompanied by a team of CBI, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Ministry of External Affairs officials.
The extradition comes as a major boost to the Indian agencies investigating the bribery angle in the contract.
On Tuesday, the CBI had issued a statement saying: "Wanted fugitive criminal Christian Michel James who has been avoiding criminal proceedings in India in AgustaWestland Case is being extradited by UAE Authorities to India. Under the guidance of Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor (NSA), the entire operation is being coordinated by Incharge Director/CBI M. Nageswara Rao. A team lead by A. Sai Manohar, Joint Director/CBI has been to Dubai for the purpose."
Michel would be confronted with documents recovered during raids by the Swiss authorities and shared with the CBI through Letters Rogatory (LRs) -- documents used for making request through a foreign court to obtain information from specified person/s within the jurisdiction of that court -- indicating the bribes paid by James to the Indian authorities for securing the contract for the supply of VVIP helicopters.
According to the CBI, Wolfgang Max Richard Michel, father of Christian, was also a consultant of AgustaWestland, United Kingdom for the Indian territory in 1980s had reportedly acted as a mediator in other countries too. Wolfgang Michel promoted three companies Entera Corporation, UCM International Trading Limited and Ferro-Imports Limited. Between 1987 and 1996, Entera Corporation reportedly earned more than two million pounds from India.
The CBI further informed that Christain's sister Sasha Ozeman had been in the news for standing by her brother's side and made public statements pertaining to the involvement of Christian in the VVIP Chopper deal case.
The action comes after the Court of Cassation in the UAE in November upheld a lower court order which said that Michel could be extradited to India.
According to the report, Michel was kept under detention at the Dubai Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID), as per the Indian government's request. The extradition was undertaken in coordination with the Interpol and the Dubai CID.
James is one of the three middlemen being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the alleged scam.
The Rs 36-bn AgustaWestland VIP helicopter deal, finalised during the previous government of Manmohan Singh, had got mired in allegations of kickbacks. The 54-year-old Michel is an accused in the case along with some others including former Air Chief SP Tyagi.
According to the Indian investigative agencies, James had received at least Rs 2.35 bn for ensuring the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013.
Others named in the chargesheet included Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen James, Haschke and Gerosa.
According to the Enforcement Directorate charge sheet filed in a court here two years back, Michel had received kickbacks to the tune of 30 million Euros from AgustaWestland for the deal involving a purchase of 12 VIP helicopters. The deal, signed in 2007, was scrapped in 2013 following the bribery allegations.
CBI had filed charge sheet in a trial court on September 1, 2017 against Christian and 11 other accused persons. The trial court took cognizance of the offences on October 11, 2017. CBI's request for extradition was forwarded to the UAE authorities on March 19, last year through diplomatic channels.
Extradition proceedings were held before UAE Court against Michel on the extradition request of CBI. Vide order dated November 19, 2018, the Court of Dubai upheld the lower court decision for possibility of extraditing him to Indian authorities. Accordingly, he is being extradited to face the legal proceedings.
On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying the VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 4.23 bn.
The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.