New Delhi: Security has been tightened at the Patiala House court complex where Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, would be produced Wednesday. He was brought to India late Tuesday night following his extradition by the UAE in connection with the case. Also Read - Nirbhaya Case: After Delhi Court, Now NHRC Dismisses Plea Seeking Stay on Execution of Convicts
Around 15-20 personnel of the CRPF and 30 Delhi Police officials have been deputed in the court complex as well as outside several of its gates, said one of the police officials. The police force, include presence of women officials. Also Read - Court Directs Delhi Police to File Status Report on Probe Into Jamia Millia Islamia Violence
Michel, 54, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on a Gulfstream jet at 10.35 pm Tuesday night after which he was arrested by the CBI in connection with the case. He will be produced before Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar later in the day. Also Read - Hope Convicts Will be Executed on March 3, Says Nirbhaya’s Mother as Court Issues Death Warrant
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. However, Michel had denied the charges.
Michel was allegedly paid 42 million Euro (approx. Rs 295 crore) bribe by AgustaWestland to pay off Indian politicians, bureaucrats and defence ministry officials to swing the Rs 3,700-crore deal for 12 VVIP choppers in favour of AgustaWestland.
The money was nothing but “kickbacks” paid by the firm to execute the 12 helicopter deal in favour of the firm in “guise of” genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, according to the charge sheet.
Michel was wanted for investigation but he escaped and had avoided joining the probe. A charge sheet was filed against him in September last year. On the basis of this warrant, a Red Corner Notice was issued by the Interpol which led to his arrest in Dubai in February 2017.
The ruling BJP government grabbed the opportunity to term the extradition in the case from the UPA era as a diplomatic victory for India, which could spell “serious trouble” for the Congress’s “first family”, referring to Gandhis.
It also asserted that the development was an unequivocal affirmation of the Narendra Modi government’s “seriousness in fighting corruption”.
Michel was behind bars in Dubai since he was arrested and sent to custody pending the legal and judicial procedure in the UAE.
The Dubai Court of Cassation had earlier dismissed the two objections filed by Michel’s lawyers and upheld the appellate court’s decision to consider the possibility of extraditing him to the competent Indian authorities.
It was alleged that he had entered into a criminal conspiracy with co-accused persons, which included the then IAF chief SP Tyagi and his family members, and the public servants had abused their official positions by reducing service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres.
The reduction in ceiling made AgustaWestland eligible for contract worth 556.262 million Euros, which was awarded to it by the Defence Ministry on February 08, 2010, for procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters.
He has been alleged to be a “historical consultant” of the AgustaWestland helicopters in the UK with technical operational knowledge of the aircraft, the military bases and the pilots, the CBI spokesperson said in a statement.
Michel worked with the company since the 1980s and before that his father had also been a consultant of the company for the Indian territory, the statement said.
He was allegedly a frequent visitor to India and was operating as a middleman for defence procurement through a wide network of sources cultivated in the IAF and the Defence Ministry at different levels, including through retired and serving IAF officials, the agency said.
Michel allegedly shared the information collected from the IAF and the ministry with his associates, who used to transmit the despatches through fax to other counterparts sitting in Italy and Switzerland, the CBI said.
“…He was updating and informing the management of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, namely Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini and others, about his efforts in India for securing supply contract of VVIP Helicopters,” the statement said.
In July 2006, AgustaWestland’s commercial manager Renzo Lunardi had proposed that Michel will join other middlemen Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa in carrying out “scouting and monitoring activities” with regard to the acquisition of helicopters in India, keeping in view of his “knowledge of Indian military operational mechanism”, it said.
During that meeting in Italy, they had negotiated a comprehensive fee equal to 7 per cent of the supply contract amount to cover the expenses and their payments.
Michel allegedly entered into 12 contracts through two of his firms — London-based Global Trade and Commerce and Dubai-based Global Services FZE — with Finmeccanica to camouflage and legitimise the alleged bribe received by him for clinching the deal, the CBI said.