Dubai court order favours extradition of Michel in chopper bribery case

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New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) A United Arab Emirates (UAE) court has favoured extradition of British national, Christian Michel James, one of the key middlemen wanted by the Indian investigative agencies in connection with its probe into Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

A translation of the Dubai court’s four-page order, from arabic, indicates that it had rejected all the contentions raised by Michel’s counsel opposing the extradition plea by the Indian authorities.

However, the investigating agencies have not yet received any communication from the UAE authorities on the court order.

There has been considerable confusion in the media about the actually order of the Dubai court, with some reports stating the order had supported extradition while others said the opposite.

The ruling was given by a bench presided over by Judge Eissa Mohamed Sherif with member judges Rashid Mohamed Al Sumairi and Ashraf Mohamed Al Shawadfi presiding on September 2.

According to wording of the court order, Michel’s counsel had argued that he may be “exposed to inhuman treatment” and that the case against the accused was “political” in nature.

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The translated order of the court, however, said that “the extradition request had no objectives — political or racial or religious, but rather the purpose of which is to prosecute him for a criminal offense.” and, therefore… “do not prevent the Court from surrendering as long as it appears from the file of restitution that the extradition request is not related to reasons other than the crime committed by the wanted person.”

Michel had also urged the court to hear a security officer named Walid, who had allegedly witnessed the meeting between him and the Indian authorities — in order to prove that the case was ‘political’. However, the court observed that request was “invalid as the name of the person did not fully show his rank or his work”.

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His counsel had also argued, according to the court order, against extradition because the accused would be subjected to “inhumane treatment” and in the absence of “any guarantees” to him. Rejecting this contention, the court said that the accused could be handed over to the “competent authorities of the Republic of India.”

Michel’s counsel had also opposed the extradition request on the grounds that he stood exonerated by British courts and Swiss tribunals. The court, however, pointed out that “the verdict of the Italian courts in the case number 357/13 based on criminal FIR 2246/12 registered against him and other two Giuseppe Orsi and Spaglini Bruno, found him guilty.”

According to Indian government officials, the UAE government had approached the court late last month asking if Michel, a British national, could be extradited to a third country — India.

In January this year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing Michel. Both the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.

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Last year, a red corner notice (RCN) was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the case — Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.

According to Indian investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland.

On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged several persons had received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.

–IANS

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