The Italian Job: Arrest Of Middleman In Augusta Westland Chopper Scam May Now Spell Trouble For Congress Brass
The Italian Job: Arrest Of Middleman In Augusta Westland Chopper Scam May Now Spell Trouble For Congress BrassChristian Michel James, the middleman arrested in Dubai

Christian Michel James, a key accused in the Rs 3,600-crore Agusta Westland VVIP chopper deal case, landed in New Delhi late Tuesday night after being extradited to India in an operation under the supervision of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, The Economic Times reports.

The decks were cleared for his extradition by the UAE government after his last legal appeal against the move was turned down by a local court in Dubai.

Michel has an open non-bailable arrest warrant issued against him by the special judge, Patiala House Court.

In a press release, CBI said that the operation was coordinated by its interim director M Nageswara Rao and a team led by A Sai Manohar, Joint Director-CBI was in Dubai to oversee the extradition.

Michel’s involvement in the chopper deal came to light in 2012. He was identified as the middleman who swung the deal in favour of Agusta Westland by making illegal payment of commission/kickbacks to the Indian authorities.

CBI alleged that Michel, a frequent visitor to India, operated as a middleman for defence procurement through a wide network of sources cultivated in the IAF and Defence Ministry at different levels, including retired and serving IAF officials.

The investigating agency also charged that Michel colluded with the then IAF chief, SP Tyagi, and his family members who abused their official positions by reduction of service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres. The reduction in ceiling made Agusta Westland eligible for contracts worth 556.262 million Euros, which were awarded to it by the Defence Ministry on 8 February 2010 for the procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters.

Michel’s links in the Indian defence circles are inherited from his father Wolfgang Max Michel Richard. Wolfgang Max Michel Richard is a British businessman who was very active in India between the 80s and 90s and was known to have enjoyed close proximity to the Congress party.

Guido Ralph Haschke, the second middleman in the deal, was the Director of a real estate firm (Emaar MGF) owned by relatives of Kanishka Singh, who is associated with a Congress high-up. A chargesheet relating to this case, filed in an Italian court, talks about a “family” getting around Rs 150 crore as a kickback from the helicopter manufacturer. Haschke stopped visiting India after 2011 when his name cropped up in the Italian probe.

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