James Christian Michel the alleged middleman in the multi-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal

UK minister Tariq Ahmad is expected to raise the issue of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, during his ongoing visit to India, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Ahmad, the minister of state in the foreign office responsible for South Asia, the Commonwealth and the UN, began a five-day visit of India on Monday, days after a panel of UN experts called on India to immediately release Michel as his detention was arbitrary and violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A British official was granted consular access to Michel, who is a UK citizen, at Delhi’s Tihar Jail on March 10 after a gap of almost a year, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Ahmad, who is seen as the lead UK minister for Michel’s case, is expected to raise the matter during his meetings with interlocutors in New Delhi, the people said. The UK side is also expected to discuss Michel’s case at an upcoming dialogue of senior officials of the two countries, the people added.

There was no official word from Indian or British officials on the development. At his maiden news briefing earlier this month, UK’s new high commissioner Alex Ellis said Britain acknowledged that a final decision in Michel’s case depends on the Indian judicial process, though Britain is hoping the matter will be resolved as speedily as possible. “We hope and want to have...a swift resolution of the case. It’s for the Indian judicial process to work out what should happen. That’s not our business, but obviously we want things to move as quickly as they can,” Ellis said.

Michel has been held in India since December 2018 after he was extradited from the UAE.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which operates under the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, was very critical in its evaluation of the handling of Michel’s case by the governments of the UAE and India in findings formally released in Geneva on Friday. Besides calling for Michel’s release, the WGAD said India and the UAE should “accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law”.

Michel was living in Dubai when India sought his extradition for involvement in alleged irregularities in the 2010 deal to acquire 12 helicopters worth 556.2 million euros.