Bri­tish mid­dle­man held in In­dia over chop­per scam

Chris­tian Michel James is ac­cused of ar­rang­ing kick­backs to In­dian of­fi­cials to se­cure a deal for Agus­taWest­land to sup­ply New Delhi with 12 he­li­copters in 2010

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

NEW DELHI: The al­leged Bri­tish mid­dle­man in a dicey he­li­copter deal be­tween In­dia and an An­gloI­tal­ian firm was re­manded in cus­tody on Wed­nes­day af­ter be­ing ex­tra­dited by the UAE, author­i­ties said.

Chris­tian Michel James is ac­cused of ar­rang­ing kick­backs to In­dian of­fi­cials to se­cure a deal for Agus­taWest­land to sup­ply New Delhi with 12 he­li­copters for 556 mil­lion eu­ros ($630 mil­lion) in 2010. Brought in from the United Arab Emi­rates late on Tues­day, James ap­peared in a Delhi court amid tight se­cu­rity.

He will re­main in po­lice cus­tody ini­tially for five days and be al­lowed to meet his lawyer for one hour twice a day dur­ing this pe­riod, lawyers said.

Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors sus­pect il­le­gal sweet­en­ers worth about 10 per cent of the con­tract, or some 55 mil­lion eu­ros, were paid out in bribes. In­dia can­celled the deal in Jan­uary 2014.

James, who in pre­vi­ous in­ter­views with In­dian news­pa­pers de­nied any wrong­do­ing, was de­tained in Dubai in Fe­bru­ary 2017 fol­low­ing an In­dian ar­rest war­rant and an In­ter­pol no­tice.

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought to cap­i­talise po­lit­i­cally on the scan­dal as the con­tract was signed un­der the pre­vi­ous govern­ment of the Congress party.

Ad­dress­ing a rally in the north­west­ern state of Ra­jasthan on Wed­nes­day, Modi said: “We have brought back the mid­dle­man. He will spill the beans.”

The BJP said on Tues­day that the case could spell “se­ri­ous trou­ble” for the “first fam­ily” of Congress, re­fer­ring to the party’s long­pow­er­ful Nehru-Gandhi dy­nasty, In­dian me­dia re­ported.

The Congress party had ear­lier al­leged that the BJP govern­ment man­aged to force James to sign a false con­fes­sion nam­ing its for­mer party chief So­nia Gandhi in ex­change of ex­on­er­a­tion from any charges. In Italy, the for­mer head of Agus­taWest­land and of par­ent com­pany Fin­mec­ca­nica were given jail sen­tences in 2014 over the scan­dal but they were later ac­quit­ted.

- File photo

SUS­PECT: Agus­taWest­land (AW101) VVIP Air­force He­li­copter. Chris­tian Michel is one of three al­leged mid­dle­men whom the In­dian in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies sus­pect to have bro­kered the VVIP chop­per deal in favour of Agus­taWest­land.

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