AgustaWestland case: Top UAE court approves India’s extradition request for British ‘middleman’
Dubai [UAE], Nov 19 (ANI): The Dubai Cassation Court on Monday sanctioned the extradition of British businessman Christian James Michel to India, where he is wanted over charges of money laundering, bribery and fraud in connection with the Rs 3700 crore AgustaWestland chopper case. The 54-year-old Briton had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges leveled against him by the Indian authorities, Gulf News reported. Abdul Aziz Abdullah, the presiding judge of the United Arab Emirates' apex court's upheld the extradition decision, which was earlier sanctioned by an appellate court. The Indian authorities had requested Dubai Public Prosecution for Michel's extradition in February 2017, following which he was arrested by Dubai Police The Briton's legal counsel argued that India's extradition request was not legitimate and that it bypassed due legal procedures. "The extradition request was lodged by India's Ministry of External Affairs and it should have been lodged by the Indian Home Ministry," Michel's lawyer Abdul Moneim Bin Suwaidan argued in the Cassation Court, challenging the extradition request. "As per the Criminal Extradition Accord signed between the UAE and India, the Indian Home Ministry is the authority that should have lodged the request," Gulf News quoted Bin Siwaisan, the lawyer, as saying. Bin Suwaidan further challenged the legal grounds of the extradition request's approval, by saying it was a direct violation of Article 8 of the Criminal Extradition Accord. "My client has a company based in Dubai. In the extradition papers, the accusations that were alleged to have been committed, purported that my client's company was used to launder money. If that's true, then he shouldn't be tried for those alleged accusations in India. He should be tried here before the UAE courts due to jurisdictional purposes. Hence, the Appeal Court should have rejected the request," Bin Suwaidan said. The case was first heard in July when Michel refuted all allegations against him. The Dubai Appeal Court then approved India's request to extradite the British businessman on September 2. Bin Suwaidan stated that the extradition request was quashed by courts in Switzerland and Italy, adding that the charges against his client were "politically motivated." "The Indian authorities want my client's custody in connection with the case known as 'Agusta-Westland helicopter bribery case' involving the purchase of 12 helicopters. Indian authorities have named Michel as an alleged middleman who routed bribes allegedly paid by Anglo-Italian company Agusta-Westland to Indian politicians and officials. Back then, my client worked as an advisor and specialised expert and not an employee with an administrative position. He had no control over bank accounts or financial transactions," the lawyer said. "After the deal was sealed, a group of specialists and technical experts received the helicopters through government bodies with the knowledge of the Ministry of Defence and the Indian government. After the deal, several political developments took place in India. My client's name was falsely and unfoundedly brought up in this case to coerce him to testify against former politicians as part of political rivalry in India," he added. "The motives behind associating my client to this case are obviously political. The Italian judicial authorities had acquitted the company of any of the Indian accusations and subsequently, Michel was cleared as well in 2014. Moreover, the extradition request rotates around an incident that happened in 2009 and should be dismissed due to time lapse," Bin Suwaidan stated. Michel's extradition process will be initiated following clearance from the UAE Minister of Justice.