The extradition of Christian James Michel, 57, the British businessman accused of bribery in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, to India has again turned the spotlight on the now-scrapped Rs 3,727-crore contract for 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The chopper deal was inked in February 2010 and by the time it was scrapped four years later, three helicopters had already been delivered.
The three unused choppers are still parked in the IAF’s hangars in New Delhi’s Palam base, two officials said on condition of anonymity. An IAF spokesperson on Wednesday declined to comment on what the IAF was planning to do with the choppers.
The three helicopters were added to the IAF fleet between December 2012 and January 2013, but none of them were ever used for flying dignitaries, the officials said. The IAF currently flies VVIPS like the President, Prime Minister and Vice President in modified Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters
AgustaWestland is a subsidiary of Italian defence group Leonardo, formerly Finmeccanica. India had paid around Rs 1,600 crore to AgustaWestland before payments were frozen, and it has recovered Rs 2,062 crore by encashing bank guarantees. The three impounded helicopters are worth Rs 900 crore.
New Delhi barred the parent company, Finmeccanica, from taking part in future Indian military tenders in August 2014, with the order suspending business with the state-owned Italian firm still in force.
Indian investigators have alleged that three middlemen — Christian Michel, Guido Ralph Haschke, and Carlo Gerosa — played a role in swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.