Christian James Michel is wanted in India in connection with the AgustaWestland helicopter bribery case involving the purchase of 12 helicopters worth around $638 million. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai Dubai’s highest court has approved India’s request to extradite a British businessman who’s wanted for commercial fraud, bribery and money laundering as part of investigations into a multi-million dollar helicopter purchase deal.

The Dubai Cassation Court upheld the appellate court’s decision to extradite 54-year-old British Christian James Michel to the Indian authorities despite having pleaded not guilty.

In February 2017, the Indian authorities lodged the extradition request before the Dubai Public Prosecution seeking to have Michel extradited over alleged fraud, bribery and money laundering charges.

“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 before the Dubai Cassation Court.

“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,” the lawyer contended as his client was challenging the extradition decision.

On Monday, presiding judge Abdul Aziz Abdullah dismissed Michel’s appeal and accepted that of Dubai prosecutors and upheld the Appeal Court’s to approve the extradition.

Bin Suwaidan argued before the Cassation Court that the approval to extradite his client was an improper implementation of the law procedures since it contradicts article 8 of the 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,’ contended the lawyer.

Last year, the extradition request for Michel was lodged and subsequently Dubai Police arrested him and handed him over to the Dubai Public Prosecution.

The case first came up for hearing in the Dubai court in July. Michel pleaded not guilty and refuted the accusations against him.

In September, the Dubai Appeal Court approved the extradition request before the British businessman challenged that decision.

In his argument before the Cassation Court, Bin Suwaidan said the case is a crystal-clear political one or related to politics to say the least.

“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.

“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,” contended Bin Suwaidan.

“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,” the lawyer said.

“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 concluded.

The defendant is expected to be extradited soon.