What might turn out to be a big blow to Congress, the prime accused in the AgustaWestland Case Christian Michel James was brought to India last night. Michel is the alleged deal broker in Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal. He is going to be produced at a court in New Delhi today.
The extradition of Michel from UAE can be seen as a big diplomatic victory for the Indian government as such a high profile extradition has not happened before. The fact that UAE has handed over one of the prime accused in AgustaWestland scam to the Indian authorities is a huge victory for Modiplomacy.
Michel was arrested on the basis of an INTERPOL Red Notice in February 2017 by the UAE authorities, the aftermath of which the CBI had filed a charge-sheet against Christian Michel and 11 other accused on September 1, 2017. He has been running away from the authorities since the charge-sheet was filed which further led to the issuance of an open non-bailable arrest warrant by the Special Judge, CBI Cases, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi on September 24, 2015.
The whole extradition operation was named ‘Operation Unicorn’ and was spearheaded by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and was duly coordinated by the interim CBI chief M. Nageshwar Rao. CBI has accused Christian Michel of paying a hefty amount of money to the Indian authorities to procure the contract for 12 VVIP choppers from Augusta Westland in 2010.
The deal between helicopter maker AgustaWestland and the Indian Airforce were signed in 2010. The scam though came to light three years later, when the company’s CEO and the chairman of its Italian parent company Finmeccanica were arrested in Italy. Four of the twelve AW101 helicopters that the Air Force had ordered were already delivered when the arrests took place in Italy. The then defense minister A K Anthony ordered a probe into the charges that the Italian investigators made, and the deal was subsequently scrapped in 2014.
For four years after the arrests in Italy, nothing about it was heard from the Indian side. Congress claimed that the Manmohan Singh government had blacklisted the company, but this is untrue. Documentary evidence suggests that the company was blacklisted by the Modi government less than two months into its tenure. While Congress desperately tries to malign the NDA government with made-up scams, fiascos of its scam ridden past have popped and the AgustaWestland scam is indeed turning out to be a nightmare for the party.
The prime reason for them being haunted by the scam is the fact that during the investigation carried out by the Italian court they found notes that were exchanged between Christian Michel and Peter Hullet. Hullet in his note asked Michel to target Sonia Gandhi, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Oil minister Veerappa Moily, Ahmed Patel and senior leader Oscar Fernandes. There were names mentioned of NSA M K Narayanan and a certain Vinay Kumar in the Defense Ministry and the then air marshal S P Tyagi.
Congress has been on a continuous spree of falsely implicating the BJP in the Rafale Deal in which they have baseless arguments will now have to answer the questions that are going to be asked to them in the AgustaWestland case. Also, if Michel turns out to be an approver from the government’s side it will turn out to be problematic for the many prominent Congress leaders and mainstream media journalists who are said to be involved in the deal.