Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, was sent to a five-day CBI custody on Wednesday, 5 December, by a Delhi court. The investigating agency that produced Michel after questioning him, originally sought a 14-day custody.
Michel was extradited to India late on Tuesday night on a special flight from Dubai. He was extradited under the guidance of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, and was coordinated by interim CBI Director M Nageswar Rao.
And now that Michel has been extradited, there are a slew of questions that he needs to answer.
Did He Receive Kickbacks?
Christian Michel’s involvement in the chopper deal allegedly surfaced in 2012 as middleman for swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland and making illegal payment of commission/kickbacks to the Indian authorities.
In the backdrop of this allegation, Michel needs to answer if his two companies – London-based Global Trade and Commerce and Dubai-based Global Services FZE – did indeed sign 12 contracts with Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland to allegedly receive a kickback of Euro 42.27 million (Rs 295 crore approximately) after the AgustaWestland deal concluded.
Which Top Indian Bureaucrats/Politicians Were Involved?
In early 2013, India struck a deal with helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland on the purchase of a new fleet of helicopters for VVIPs.
However, several politicians and military officials have been accused of accepting bribes from AgustaWestland in order to win the Rs 36 billion (US$500 million) worth Indian contract.
Former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi is one of the accused who is charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act for his alleged role in clearing the chopper deal.
Michel will have to answer questions pertaining to his alleged role in facilitating and monitoring the chopper deal on behalf of AgustaWestland.
And based on the documents and information in possession of the agency, he will be asked to name the bureaucrats and top politicians.
Michel had earlier accused Indian investigators of pressuring him to name UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and frame senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in return for a clean chit in the multi-crore scam.
Association With Other Middlemen?
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and CBI.
Guido Ralph Haschke – a middleman who allegedly got 51 million euros from AgustaWestland to influence the contract – was arrested in Switzerland in 2013.
Was Michel Assigned the Task to Monitor the Deal?
According to reports, Michels’s Dubai firm – Global Services FZE was signed to facilitate the sale of 14 old Westland choppers to be procured from Pawan Hans. But Michel needs to answer if Renzo Lunardi, the then Commercial Manager of AgustaWestland, assigned Michel the task to monitor the chopper deal with the Indian authorities, in a meeting in Cascina Costa in Italy in July 2006.
Lunardi had proposed that Michel will join the other middlemen Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa in carrying out “scouting and monitoring activities” with regard to the acquisition of helicopters in India.
Christian Michel will be produced before the Patiala House Court on Wednesday, 5 December.
(With inputs from PTI)
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