According to news reports, AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal middleman Christian Michel spent 330 crores to ‘manage the media’. James Christian Michel, the alleged ‘Fix it Man’ in the chopper scam has finally been extradited to India. After losing an extradition request by India in Dubai court, he took the flight to India last night.
India has officially taken him into custody and a non-bailable warrant has been issued against him. He will be taken for a medical checkup today. His extradition was carried out under the supervision of National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.
AgustaWestland paid him a sum of 330 crores to manage various aspect of the deal. The management includes paperwork, managing regulatory authorities, and the media in India. Michel’s main job was to give feedback on the media activities relating to the AgustaWestland deal. His meetings with some media persons are under scanner as well.
The CBI officials looking into the scam told that he is an important player. We have some evidence on him including the reports he sent out and also the meetings he held with some people in the media, officials also added.
Allegedly, Michel also paid Rs 6 crores in bribes to certain influential media persons to sway the public and policy opinion in favor of the deal. Several of his meetings are under the scanner of CBI. They also learned that through his company Global Services FZE all his meetings and transactions were managed. If there was any bad press he was meant to fix it, CBI officials also added. CBI also found out that he has several ‘benami’ assets in India. A bungalow in Delhi and a car has also been purchased by him on this ‘benami’ name.
India has tried to extradite him several times in the past as well but was not able to turn the decision in its favor. Finally, on September 2, The Court of Appeal of Dubai had ruled in favor of the Indian Government and said that he could be extracted. “The court decided the possibility of extraditing Christian James Michel to the competent authorities in the Republic of India”, The Court added.
The deal between helicopter maker AgustaWestland and the Indian Airforce was 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.
Among the major revelations that are expected to come out from the interrogation of Michel by the CBI, certain media people’s role in the scam is likely to be the most surprising. Another one will be the long-term ramifications of the ‘politician-media nexus’ that had grown and was nurtured during the UPA regime.