19/09/2018 10:39 AM IST | Updated 19/09/2018 10:40 AM IST

Christian Michel, Alleged Middleman In UPA-Era VVIP Chopper Deal, To Be Extradited To India

Renewed focus on AgustaWestland controversy comes as opposition has been criticising the government over the Rafale deal.

Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS
A file photo of AgustaWestland helicopters for representative purposes only.

NEW DELHI -- A Dubai court on Tuesday ordered the extradition of Christian Michel, a key accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper case, in response to requests by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, the Indian Express reported.

The investigating agencies consider Michel a key suspect in the case, which pertains to alleged bribes paid for the purchase of 12 choppers which cost the exchequer at least Rs 3,600 crore. Michel was the middleman responsible for establishing contact with bureaucrats and politicians to swing the VVIP chopper deal in favour of AgustaWestland. Once extradited, he may face trial in the case.

At a time when the government is facing increasing criticism for unrelenting increase in petrol prices, this extradition will provide the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Union government a chance to shift attention towards corruption in the previous United Progressive Alliance government, the Times of Indiareported.

Until Tuesday night, the UAE government had not yet conveyed this officially to the Indian authorities. However, the latter had accessed the court order in Arabic and it was being translated, the report above cited said.

The extradition order and the renewed focus on the UPA government's chopper deal also comes as the opposition has been criticising the government for the alleged irregularities in the Rafale aircraft deal.