Extradition of Christian Michel is a Diplomatic Success for India
Sensational Extradition to India of Christian Michel British businessman, alleged to be the middleman in the AgustaWestland helicopters case with allegations of bribing officials to secure the deal, that of a national from a third country not wanted for more serious crimes such as terror or murder, is believed to be an exceptional gesture made by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is seen as a diplomatic success. This extradition, months after a UAE court, may blow the decade-old AgustaWestland case wide open, given that Michel is reportedly privy to the money trail in the lengthy and procedural transaction that straddled three governments, witnessed significant changes in specification allegedly in an effort to force the tender towards one manufacturer, and which left numerous clues with probe agencies.
- India has extradition treaties with 44 countries including UAE.
- UAE has deported or extradited 19 of 66 fugitives to India in the past 15 years.
- India’s track record with securing the extradition of fugitives from justice is otherwise modest with only about a third of all requests since 2002 being accepted.
- Low success rate of extradition is due to the perception that India’s criminal justice system delivers too slowly.
- Abu Salem accused in1993 Mumbai blasts was extradited from Portugal in 2005 and his trial was finally completed in 2017, when he was sentenced to life.
- Michel extradition comes at a time when several other cases of Indian businessmen that include Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi who have fled India are pending.
- Michel was reportedly held at the Dubai airport when he tried to leave on 13 June 2018.
- UAE court dismissed objections on 19 November from Michel’s lawyers and allowed the extradition.
- Michel case was pursued by the government single-mindedly, with the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval reported to have made several trips to the UAE to secure the extradition.
- Michel was brought to India by a five-member team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and two UAE nationals believed to be government officials on board a Gulf Stream G3 jet owned by the Aviation Research Centre of RAW.
There are several extradition requests pending with countries and it is expected that the government and CBI must adhere to internationally accepted norms, lest it gives other fugitives fuel to oppose pleas for their extradition to India. Michel’s extradition could reveal important leads in the helicopters case. Michel case will certainly be observed by the UAE and other countries from where India’s extradition requests are pending.