The extradition of AgustaWestland case accused ‘Middleman’ Christian Michel, reverberates cautioning alarms for defrauders like billionaire tycoon Vijaya Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. As the first and the foremost in the roster, Mallya, petrified by the extradition, offered the Indian banks to accept 100% of the loan amount from him.
However, this act is an important political victory for BJP. The development turns on its head the corruption narrative just at the right time for prime minister Narendra Modi. It also puts Congress under huge pressure. In one stroke, Rahul Gandhi’s offensive posture on Rafale will now be deemed as defensive. His accusations will become excuses.
Michel’s extradition gives Modi a simple and effective narrative.
The wheeler-dealer central to the multimillion-dollar AgustaWestland helicopter deal is alleged to have paid kickbacks worth €56 million to a certain “political family” in India going by his purported handwritten notes that describes Sonia Gandhi as the “driving force behind the VVIP chopper deal”. Michel, of course, has denied having written those notes but that is incidental.
Modi now gets the chance to send a message to the electorate that it is due to the painstaking effort of India’s intelligence wing, probe agencies and his political iron will that a fugitive who was hiding in the UAE to avoid Indian law has been dragged back into India. If Michel sings, those behind the curtains will quake in their boots, no matter how “high and mighty” they are.
Modi didn’t take long in pressing home the advantage. Just a few hours after Michel was escorted to India by CBI officers from UAE, Modi told a rally in Rajasthan’s Sumerpur that government has brought back the “rajdaar (confidant) Christian Michel from Dubai, and it remains to be seen the deep secrets he (Michel) will unveil…”
A few hours later, in another rally in Rajasthan’s Dausa, Modi said: “you must have read it in the newspapers by now that we have caught a secret-keeper of the chopper scam and brought him here. The entire family [Gandhi family] is now scared of the things he will reveal.”
While Michel gave Modi an antidote to Rafale, the developments in London may work further to his advantage. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, another fugitive from Indian law charged with fraud, money laundering and facing extradition, coincidentally offered to repay “100% of the money” that he owed to banks years after trying every trick in the book, including escaping to the UK, to avoid doing so.
Mallya’s statement has been quickly attributed to nervousness. Michel’s fate might have made him think that an extradition isn’t an impossibility. All these contribute towards restoring Modi’s anti-corruption image.