Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, was Wednesday produced before a Delhi court which allowed his five-day custodial interrogation by the CBI. The agency alleged a loss of about ₹2,666 crore to the exchequer due to the scam.
The CBI had filed its first chargesheet in the AgustaWestland scam in September 2017, in which it alleged that Christian Michel through his companies had received 42.27 million euros for the objective of payment for service and consultancy contracts in 2010-11. Former Air Force chief SP Tyagi was also arrested over the allegations of reducing the flying ceiling of the helicopter to put AgustaWestland in the race.
"The trial court took cognisance of the offences in October 2017, after which the CBI's request for extradition was forwarded to the UAE authorities on 19 March 2018 through diplomatic channels", a CBI officer said. A meeting was held in Cascina Costa, Italy during July, 2006 and Lunardi in the presence of Orsi proposed that Christian Michel will join 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.
An amount of €42.27 million (about ₹295 crore) was paid by the Finmeccanica group to his firms as kickbacks without undertaking any work, the CBI alleges. The letter was allegedly written by Michel to Peter Hulet, then India region sales and liaison head of AgustaWestland.
Mr. Michel worked with Westland Helicopters Limited (U.K.) since 1980s.
In February 2013, the government chose to put on hold the deal following the arrest of chairman of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and CEO of Agusta Westland Bruno Spagnolini on charges that they bribed middlemen to secure the deal with IAF. He flew back to Dubai the last time days before the CBI registered an FIR to probe the alleged scam. He was allegedly also in touch with officials from the PMO, SPG, CVC and defence ministry.
He was tracking the movements of the procurement process files and was sending periodical reports/despatches on the developments to the accused persons connected with AgustaWestland. Between 1987 and 1996, Entera Corporation reportedly earned more than £2 million from India. Indian agencies had an even tougher task, given that Michel was a United Kingdom national that India was seeking to extradite from a third country.
Initially, the investigation conducted by Italian authorities indicted him for offences of worldwide bribery and corruption, following which the CBI too started a probe against him.