New Delhi, Nov 18: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sent a request to the UAE for extradition of Christian Michel James, who acted as the middleman in AgustaWestland choppers deal. In the post-Budget session of Parliament, the BJP-led government pinned down the prime Opposition Congress by raking up the scam of UPA era. The AgustaWestland deal cost the exchequer Rs 3,565 crores. Christian Michel James is accused of acting as the middleman who influenced key Indian politicians and bureacrats to procure the contract for Finmeccanica, the parent group of AgustaWestland.
Christian Michel James is currently in Dubai, with security agencies in both India and Italy seeking his extradition. James has denied any foul play and claims that he could prove his innocence in case of fair investigation. James claims to have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring his side of the story before him. In an interview with The Hindu, James said, “I felt he (Modi) was not being given the whole story, and I felt I must inform him of what was going on. The PM of a country as large as India may not be able to go into detail on any issue, and I felt he was being misled.”
What is AgustaWestland scam?
AgustaWestland, or the VVIP choppers scam dates back to February 2010. The then Congress government led by Manmohan Singh signed contract with AgustaWestland to buy 12 AW101 choppers. The deal was inked for Rs 3,565 crores. The deal, however, was put to hold in 2013, after an Italian court charged Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland and Guiseppe Orsi, chairman of the Italian parent company Finmeccanica of bribing Indian officials.
How the scam came back to limelight?
On April 8, 2016, an Italian court presented a 225 page judgment against Orsi, the chief of Finmeccanica. He was charged of bribing Indian bureacrats, politicians and officials of Indian Air Force. The amount of bribe was specified to be 30 million Euros. Although the beneficiaries were not specified, Italian prosecutors claimed that one of the beneficiaries was identified as ‘AP’, which could be the acronym used to identify Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.