Dubai may hand over agent Christian Michel in AgustaWestland case
20 November 2018
Dubai's highest court on Monday approved India's request to extradite British middlemen Christian Michel, who is wanted in a money laundering, bribery, and fraud case in connection with the Rs3,600-crore worth VVIP chopper scam under the UPA government.
The 54-yer-old British businessman, who allegedly served as middlemen for the VVIP chopper deal in India, is currently behind bars in Dubai since he was arrested and sent to custody pending the legal and judicial procedure in the UAE.
The Court of Cassation dismissed appeals filed by his defence lawyers and upheld a lower court order, which ruled that Michel could be extradited, the Khaleej Times reported.
A bench headed by Judge Abdelaziz Al Zarouni and judges Musabeh Thaaloub, Mostafa Al Shinawi, Mahmoud Sultan and another judge pronounced the decision, the paper said.
Michel will now have the option to approach the Ministry of Justice in UAE to request for his extradition to be halted.
His lawyer Abdul Moneim submitted documents showing that courts in Switzerland and Italy had ruled not to extradite his client.
“The judicial authorities there concluded there was no criminal element in the case,” the lawyer argued.
Earlier, he argued at Dubai’s highest court that the extradition request procedure of Michel would be a “violation” of the international treaty signed between the UAE and India.
Contesting the lower court’s ruling, according to which his client could be extradited, the lawyer argued that the Indian authorities did not follow “the proper procedures” when requesting the extradition, the paper said.
“The request should have been filed by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs rather than its Ministry of External Affairs,” Abdul Moneim was quoted as saying.
He contended that the procedure was “flawed” since it did not comply with the clauses of the treaty signed on the issue, the paper said.
“Accordingly, the lower court order should be reversed,” he argued.
With Dubai’s top court upholding the lower court’s decision, it has become final but will need approval from the UAE minister of justice for the extradition procedure to start.
The extradition procedure happens in coordination with the Interpol and the Criminal investigation Department.
Since the appellate court ruled on September 2 that he could be extradited, in response to a request filed by the Indian authorities to the UAE in connection with corruption-related charges, Michel lost his bail conditions, the paper said.
Michel, whose passport had been seized by the judicial authorities in Dubai and had been granted release on bail, became ‘wanted’ on September 2, following the decision issued by the Dubai Court of Appeals.
Citing a source, the paper said Michel’s extradition request had previously been closed administratively here as the necessary papers were not available then from India. Once his file was complete, the case was re-opened. He was summoned and confronted with the file afterwards.
India officially made the request to the Gulf nation sometime back for his extradition, based on the criminal investigations conducted in the case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The ED, in charges filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.
The money was nothing but “kickbacks” paid by the firm to execute the 12 helicopter deal in favour of the firm in “guise of” genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, according to the chargesheet.
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, along with Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him.
The UK-based middleman has been accused of organising bribes for securing the deal for VVIP helicopters for AgustaWestland. The charges filed by Enforcement Directorate (ED) against Michel in June 2016 alleged that he had received EUR 30 million (around Rs 225 crore) from defence equipment manufacturer AgustaWestland.
On 1 January 2014, India terminated the contract to purchase 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers for the Indian Air Force from AgustaWestland, which is the British subsidiary of Italian firm Finmeccanica, after allegations of breach of contractual obligations came to fore, which included an exchange of money as kickbacks worth Rs423 crore by the firm.