VVIP chopper case: five-day CBI custody for Christian Michel

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Michel was arrested a year ago by UAE authorities after a request from India to extradite him.

Christian Michel James is described as a historical consultant of AgustaWestland/Westland Helicopters, UK with technical operational knowledge of the aircraft, the military bases and the pilots.

The CBI further informed that Christain's sister Sasha Ozeman had been in the news for standing by her brother's side and made public statements pertaining to his involvement in the VVIP Chopper deal case.

What is the chopper scam?

But in 2014 when their tenure was to end and Lok Sabha election was held, the centre scrapped the deal following the allegation levelling on them that the AgustaWestland, whose parent company Finmeccanica faced charges of bribery in Italy, had paid kickbacks in India.

The ruling BJP had said the extradition in the AgustaWestland case from the UPA regime was a diplomatic victory for India and could spell "serious trouble" for the Congress' "first family", referring to Gandhis.

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In its chargesheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then IAF Vice Chief J.S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan as the four Indians involved in the scam. Michel has been accused of bribing influential people in India to secure the deal.

However, Michel had denied the charges. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. Michel has alleged that the diaries were written by Guido Haschke, another alleged middleman and co-accused in the VVIP chopper scandal.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received Euro 30 million (about Rs 2.25 billion) 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 of genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, it had alleged.

In its chargesheet, the ED had said the three middlemen "managed to" influence the Indian Air Force (IAF) officials to reduce the service ceiling of these 12 helicopters from 6,000 metre to 4,500 metre in 2005, which made AgustaWestland eligible for the deal. AgustaWestland became eligible to supply the dozen helicopters for VVIP flying duties after this change.

British businessman Michel was Wednesday sent to five-day CBI custody by a Delhi court, a day after he was extradited to India from the UAE.

The Enforcement Directorate has said it will question Michel over purported creation of "shell firms" in India and overseas by him and others to launder bribe money that he received for the Augusta deal.

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