Dubai Court Orders Extradition of AgustaWestland Middleman Christian Michel to India

Christian Michel James is wanted in India for allegedly paying bribes to win $500 million contract for AgustaWestland helicopters.


A Dubai court has ordered the extradition of Christian Michel James to India for his alleged role in the $500 million AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.

Michel, a 54-year-old British national, allegedly organized bribes for Indian ministers and top defense officials in order to win a 2010 contract for the supply of 12 AW101 helicopters for AgustaWestland, an Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer. The helicopters were to be used to ferry top leaders.  

Michel was arrested in the United Arab Emirates last year and was facing extradition proceedings in the country.

The Dubai court pronounced the judgment following India’s official extradition request, based on the criminal investigations conducted in the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Indian news agency PTI reported.

“The court order, which is in Arabic, is being translated at the moment. The exact reasons for the court agreeing to extradite Michel to India are not know yet, but the order is for his extradition,” the Hindustan Times quoted a senior government official as saying on the condition of anonymity. It was not clear whether Michel could appeal against the extradition order, the report added.

In 2010, the Indian government signed a contract with AgustaWestland to buy 12 luxury helicopters. The controversy came to light in February 2013 when Italian authorities arrested Giuseppe Orsi, the then CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent (which became Leonardo in 2017) of AgustaWestland, on charges of corruption. The Indian government cancelled the contract in 2014.

The case led to the arrest of former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi in 2016 over allegations that he accepted bribes to tailor specifications at the instance of his cousins.

The ED said in its charge sheet that middleman Michel received 30 million Euros from AgustaWestland as “kickbacks” to execute the helicopter deal in its favor, PTI reported, citing the charge sheet.

The probe by Indian agencies revealed that Michel made 300 trips to India between 1997 and 2013, according to an  earlier report by Indian Today. Michel went to Dubai just before CBI initiated a preliminary inquiry, the report said, adding that ED has also alleged that Michel used his Dubai-based firm Global Services FZE to park the money.

Besides Michel, Indian investigating agencies are also probing the roles of two other middlemen — Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. The three middlemen “managed to” make inroads into the Indian Air Force (IAF) to influence the officials to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters, after which AgustaWestland became eligible to supply the helicopters, the report added.

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