British national Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman wanted in Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, was extradited to India on Tuesday night from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was taken straight to the CBI headquarters from the airport.
He was questioned through the night and he will be produced in a court today.
The extradition comes as a major boost to the Indian agencies investigating the bribery angle in the contract.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took 57-year-old James under its custody as soon as he arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi at around 11 p.m in a special aircraft, accompanied by a team of CBI, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and officials of Ministry of External Affairs.
He was escorted by a Delhi Police team to the CBI headquarters in south Delhi’s Lodhi Road area for interrogation over his alleged role in the purchase of 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland.
His extradition came through on a day Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held discussions with her UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi.
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 2.25 billion) from AgustaWestland.
The central probe agency in a press note said the entire extradition operation was conducted under the guidance of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, with the coordination of interim CBI Director M. Nageswara Rao.
According to the report, James was kept under detention at the Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), as per the Indian government’s request. The extradition was undertaken in coordination with the Interpol and the Dubai CID.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 4.23 billion by it for securing the deal.
The CBI has alleged that there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (approximately Rs 26.66 billion) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million.
(With agency inputs)