The prime accused in the AgustaWestland case Christian Michel James, who was extradited to India from the UAE in 2018, is now receiving the support of the UN which is trying its best to free the UK middleman indicted of providing kickbacks to Indian officials. On Friday, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) issued a statement urging the government to immediately release Michel.
The UN WGAD made unsubstantiated claims by alleging that the Indian government did a ‘de facto swap deal’ with the UAE under which Sheikha Latifa who was detained in India was returned to UAE for Michel. Sheikha Latifa is the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the UAE’s vice president and prime minister. She had fled her homeland in February 2018 but was intercepted by commandos off the coast of India.
The whole extradition operation of Christian Michel was named ‘Operation Unicorn’ and was spearheaded by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and was duly coordinated by the then interim CBI chief M. Nageshwar Rao.
Ever since the Rs 3,700 crore VVIP chopper scam came to light, Michel has been the focal point of the entire issue along with the tainted former UPA government. Michel has been alleging human rights violations and is now using the UN as a shield to secure his release and return to the UK.
Moreover, some media reports have suggested that Michel recently shot off a detailed 35-page handwritten letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, foreign secretary Dominic Raab, and home Secretary Priti Patel, expressing his dismay at the failure of the British government in securing his release.
The deal between helicopter maker AgustaWestland and the Indian Airforce was signed in 2010. Though the scam 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 defence minister A K Anthony ordered a probe into the charges that the Italian investigators made, and the deal was subsequently scrapped in 2014.
The UN is clearly overstepping its boundaries by trying to intervene in the internal security matters of the country. New Delhi, since the arrival of PM Narendra Modi’s NDA government, has been steadfast in its stance that no foreign body or organisation can raise a finger in India’s internal matters.
Therefore, it is expected that the South Block might altogether ignore the demands of the UN or give it a stern warning of staying put. Either way, Christian Michel is not leaving the Indian jails or shores anytime soon. The UN should keep its nose away and rather than trying to free an accused man, focus on other complex issues such as China trying to alter the definition of ‘Human rights’ and ‘genocide’, all under its nose.