AgustaWestland chopper deal: CBI denies it forced accused Christian Michel to name Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi: The CBI on Friday said it has not questioned Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal, who was arrested in the UAE last year and was facing extradition proceedings in that country.

When asked about the claims of Michel's lawyer that he was being pressured by the Indian and UAE authorities to give a confession and name Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in his statement, the CBI refuted the allegation, saying its team has not examined him in the UAE, where he was taken into custody last year.

"Christian Michel was arrested in February, 2017 by the UAE authorities. He was not arrested this year as claimed by his defence lawyer. The CBI team has neither examined the fugitive in the UAE nor influenced him to extract a confession. The extradition proceedings against the fugitive are going on in the UAE and request for extradition is being followed up," CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said on the allegations.

 AgustaWestland chopper deal: CBI denies it forced accused Christian Michel to name Sonia Gandhi

File image of an AgustaWestland helicopter. Reuters

The CBI filed a chargesheet in the matter in September last year, naming former IAF Chief SP Tyagi as one of the accused.

Besides him, the agency has also chargesheeted retired Air Marshal JS Gujral along with eight others, including five foreign nationals. Michel is one of the three foreign country-based middleman chargesheeted in the matter.

The agency has alleged that there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (approximately Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on 8 February, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million.

The CBI had earlier alleged that during his tenure as air force chief, Tyagi and, with his approval, the Air Force conceded to reduce the mandatory service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres.

The Air Force was vehemently opposing the service ceiling reduction on the grounds of security constraints and other related reasons.

It has claimed that reduction of the service ceiling, or the maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally, allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to come into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

The CBI has alleged that the AgustaWestland managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine and eventually succeeded in getting the contract for supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from the Defence Ministry mainly due to softening of the IAF on service ceiling after SP Tyagi took over as its chief.

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Updated Date: Jul 20, 2018 17:36:59 IST