AugustaWestland chopper scam accused British national Christian Michel who has been languishing in Tihar Jail for two years has written a handwritten letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, foreign secretary Dominic Raab and home secretary Priti Patel calling on the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to intervene in his case, claiming his extradition from Dubai to India was politically-motivated and that he has been tortured.
In the 35-page correspondence, which his lawyer, Toby Cadman, of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, released on Saturday, Michel, 54, sets out his dismay at the failings of the British government to help and claims he was handed over to the Indian authorities “unlawfully” by the UAE “as part of a quid pro quo for the return of Sheikha Latifa”.
In March 2018, the 35-year-old daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler was intercepted on a yacht about 50 miles off the coast of Goa in a joint India-UAE operation and sent back to Dubai.
Michel was extradited from Dubai to India on December 4, 2018.
In the letter, dated January 7, Michel writes that the first request for his extradition from the UAE to India failed and the second request “coincided with the handing over of Sheikha Latifa to Dubai by the Indian authorities”.
He states that the Indian government “reinstated the extradition procedure” two days after a meeting took place between him and a senior CBI official in May 2018 after he “refused to cooperate in signing a 20-page confession incriminating himself”.
Michel also claims that whilst imprisoned in Dubai, awaiting extradition, he was prevented from accessing his lawyer and denied private consular access.
In Tihar jail, he claims he has been subjected to “repeated and prolonged interrogations aimed at securing a confession by way of duress”, as well as “inhuman or degrading treatment that… constitutes torture.”
In April 2019, Cadman filed an urgent communication with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture against both the UAE and India with regard to Michel.
“We fully expect the UN Working Group to rule that Christian is being arbitrarily detained and recommend his immediate release. That ruling is imminent,” he said.
“The process that led to his removal from the UAE was a politically motivated decision. This extradition process can only be defined as a political extradition or better, a political rendition. The complete lack of due process is utterly unacceptable. He has been detained in conditions that can only be described in flagrant breach of the fundamental guarantees under national and international law. The FCDO must take immediate steps to intervene,” Cadman said.
Michel is accused of bribing and criminally conspiring with Indian officials to win a contract on behalf of British helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland for 12 VVIP helicopters in 2010 and of receiving Rs 375 crore (€ 42.27million) in kickbacks for securing the deal.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Our staff continue to support a British man who has been detained in Delhi since 2018 and regularly raise his case with the Indian authorities. The Foreign Secretary raised it with India’s Minister of External Affairs, Dr Jaishankar, during his visit to India in December 2020. Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon has met with his family based in the UK, and we continue to provide them with updates on his case.”