Sunday 20 October 2019

Indian court orders Briton detained in helicopter bribery probe

Christian James Michel was extradited to India from Dubai on Tuesday.

Christian James Michel (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Christian James Michel (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

By Ashok Sharma, Associated Press

An Indian court has ruled that officials may hold a British man while they investigate him for alleged bribery over a cancelled 670 million dollar (£525 million) helicopter deal between India and an Italian defence company.

Judge Arvind Kumar allowed Christian James Michel to briefly meet his lawyer, who failed to have him released on bail while the charges are investigated.

Michel was extradited to India from Dubai on Tuesday to face charges of channelling bribes to Indian contacts.

Christian James Michel was extradited to India from Dubai (Altaf Qadri/AP)

Indian investigators said in court documents that Michel transferred the money from a British subsidiary of Finmeccanica, which has since been renamed Leonardo SpA.

In 2014, India received three of 12 AW101 helicopters it had ordered to fly senior officials but halted the deal after the bribery allegations surfaced.

The Central Bureau of Investigation said Michel was a frequent visitor to India when the deal was being negotiated and “was operating as a middle man for defence procurements through a wide network of sources cultivated in the Indian Air Force and Ministry of Defence at different levels, including retired and serving officials”.

Christian James Michel returns from a Central Bureau of Investigation hearing in New Delhi (Altaf Qadri/AP)

Indian investigators want Michel to reveal the names of Indian politicians involved in the alleged scheme. The opposition Congress party was ruling the country at the time.

With national elections due in March-April, prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party is expected to try to embarrass the Congress party, its main rival, if Michel names some of its leaders as beneficiaries in the helicopter deal.

India is upgrading its military and has become the world’s biggest arms and defence equipment buyer in recent years.

Arms deals have often been marred by allegations that foreign companies paid huge kickbacks to Indian officials.

PA Media

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