Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

BJP: Michel’s diary points at Gandhis, UPA leaders

CBI begins Michel's questioning, mulls giving British High Commission access to him

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) quizzed Christian Michel James on the AgustaWestland chopper scam round the clock on Thursday, a day after the agency was granted five days’ police custody of the British middleman.

Michel’s extradition by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a big boost for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which alleges that diary entries reportedly made by him point to senior members of the Gandhi family and other top leaders of the United Progressive Alliance.

“Michel’s questioning has been on since morning (on Thursday) and, apart from reasonable sleeping hours, it will continue. We are now focusing on questioning Michel alone and once this process is completed, we will decide who else to call for questioning. We have a lot of material to cross-check and examine him on, so that process is underway. His lawyer met him this morning for one hour," said a senior official familiar with the developments.

The British High Commission has sought consular access to Michel and a CBI spokesperson confirmed that the agency “has received a request through the ministry of external affairs (MEA) for consular access and we are processing it. Once we approve it, we will give a suitable time to the British High Commission to meet him."

Michel was extradited to India by the UAE on Tuesday night, in an operation coordinated by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. CBI interim director M. Nageswara Rao coordinated the operation, while a team led by A. Sai Manohar, joint director of the CBI, and Indian intelligence officials accompanied Michel from Dubai.

Persons familiar with the developments, on condition of anonymity, said the decks were cleared for Michel’s extradition in May after Indian authorities rescued Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa, who was reportedly kidnapped, off India’s west coast in March. The extradition was set in motion with assistance from Indian intelligence agencies, in an event that became the bedrock of cooperation between the two nations.

“MEA had received two requests from CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the extradition of Christian Michel from the UAE. These requests were forwarded by our mission to the UAE authorities. After following due process and exhaustion of judicial process, Christian Michel was extradited to India," the MEA said on Thursday.

Michel’s extradition turned into a political slugfest, with the ruling BJP accusing the Congress of shielding Michel, in the wake of the latter expelling his lawyer Aljo Joseph, late Wednesday night.

“The Congress is completely rattled after the extradition of Christian Michel. They know the reason. They had sent their team to defend Christian Michel," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told the media in New Delhi on Thursday.

On CBI’s agenda

CBI to interrogate Michel on documents pertaining to AgustaWesteland chopper deal

The agency will also probe the receipt of €37.7 million (approx 240 crore) by the chopper scam accused

Christian Michel James’ links to former IAF chief S.P. Tyagi and other bureaucrats to be investigated

CBI has received British High Commission’s request for consular access, will process the request

Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.

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