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Not received any communication from authorities to extradite Christian Michel: CBI

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AgustaWestland AW101

New Delhi, Sep 19 : The Indian authorities said on Wednesday they have not received any communication from the UAE regarding the extradition order of British national Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, even as they claimed that a court there had ruled that he can be extradited.

“The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not received any communication regarding Michel’s extradition from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA),” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said here.

The MEA is the agency concerned that gets notified about the proceedings regarding any wanted persons in other countries. It then informs the investigating agencies in the country.

The CBI official’s remarks came amid the media reports that a United Arab Emirates (UAE) court has ordered the extradition of Michel to India in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

Official sources also said that the UAE has not communicated to MEA yet on extradition of Michel.

It is learnt that the UAE government had approached the court late last month asking if Michel, a British national, can be extradited to a third country–India. And then apparently the court on September 2 said that he can be extradited The Indian missiion in UAE has been asked to find out information on this.

In January this year, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing Michel. Both the ED and the CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.

Last year, a red corner notice was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the scam — Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.

According to Indian investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013.

On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract. The FIR mentioned charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and those under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The operational flight ceiling of the choppers was reduced from 6,000 metres, as originally proposed, to 4,500 metres and the cabin height was brought down to 1.8 metres.

The twin modifications were allegedly meant to rig the deal in favour of AgustaWestland, which eventually walked away with the order to supply the 12 choppers for the Communication Squadron of the IAF for ferrying the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs.

The CBI probe revealed that several payments were made to the Tyagis by Haschke, Gerosa and Michel.

Tyagi, who was IAF chief from 2004 to 2007, his cousin and Khaitan were arrested in December last year by the agency. They are now out on bail.

India

Opposition requests President to return farm Bills for reconsideration

After the meeting senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the govt did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed”

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Ram Nath Kovind

Opposition leaders met President Kovind on Wednesday and apprised him of the circumstances amid which the Farm Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. They requested him to return the Bills for reconsideration to the House.

After the meeting Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the government did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed.”

The opposition said that the government ignored the demand for sending the Bills to a select committee.

Ahead of this meeting, the Congress and other opposition parties continued to protest in the Parliament complex here on Wednesday.

The protesting lawmakers marched from Gandhi’s statue in the complex to BR Ambedkar’s statue within the premises to register their protest while carrying placards.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “All MPs of the Congress and like-minded parties are marching from the Gandhi statue to the Ambedkar statue in Parliament to protest against anti-farmers and anti-workers Bills rubber stamped in Parliament in the most undemocratic manner by the Modi government.”

Earlier, the opposition leaders met in the chamber of Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and decided to continue their protest over the Farm Bills.

The opposition and the government are at loggerheads ever since the two farm Bills were passed amid a ruckus in the Upper House on Sunday. The third contentious Bill on essential commodities was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

On Sunday, pandemonium broke out in the Upper House as the opposition protested over the two Farm Bills. Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien even approached the Chair and tried to snatch a mike while citing the rule book.

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Navy’s capabilities hit by PSUs’ lack of expertise, delays: CAG

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MiG 29K Indian Airforce

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Indian Navy does not have adequate auxiliary vessels, landing platform docks, fleet tankers and cadet training ships, government’s financial watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said on Wednesday.

It also said that the navy is facing problems due to inordinate delays in the acquisition process and lack of expertise of defence public sector undertakings (PSUs).

The CAG’s audit report on Defence Services, Navy and Coast Guard was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

In its performance audit on efficacy of auxiliary vessels — vessels designed to operate in support of combatant ships and other naval operations — in the Indian Navy, the government auditor stated that their strength was not increasing commensurately with the increase in the combat fleet.

“In fact, it was declining,” it said.

The planned targets for acquisition of auxiliary vessels could not be achieved due to inordinate delays in acquisition process, specifically, non-adherence to the prescribed timelines in conclusion of contracts, it said, pointing out that this was principally on account of lack of expertise of defence PSUs and non-assessment of capability of shipyards.

On assessment of landing platform dock (LPD), CAG stated that the existing capability of the LPD, which is used to transport troops, defence equipment, helicopters and vessels into a war zone, was found to be inadequate to meet requirements of amphibious and expeditionary operations.

The Indian Navy had decided to acquire this vital warfare ship in October 2010 at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore.

However, even after nine years, the contract has not been concluded.

“This was due to failure to fix a specified time frame for obtaining a Corporate Debt Restructuring exit certificate by one of the participating firms,” the report stated.

On fleet tankers, the CAG stated that due to the inadequate availability of fleet tankers, the Indian Navy was thus forced to hire ships from trade and these vessels are used for providing fuel, water, ammunition and stores to the fleet at sea.

The approval for acquisition of fleet tankers to a force level at a cost of Rs 9,045 crore was accorded in 2014. However, the contract was yet to be concluded till August 2019.

The CAG also stated that Indian Navy did not possess enough cadet training ships, and “therefore, converted normal fleet ships to training ships” but the “converted vessels, however, experienced severe limitations in operations”.

The contracts concluded (June 2011 and November 2012) for acquisition of three cadet training ships did not fructify and bank guarantees worth Rs 324.73 crore were yet to be encashed.

The audit also observed that there was loss due to irregular stepping-up of pay of sailors.

System-driven mass stepping-up of pay of 21,089 sailors was carried out by the Naval Pay Office between 2009 and 2011 by misinterpreting the rules and side-lining the relevant pre-audit checks.

“The wrong stepping-up of pay which was reverted in 2017 led to overpayment of at least Rs 22.70 crore. Incorrect fixation of pay and pension is not yet completely rectified,” it said.

It also stated that simulator and training aids were procured at a cost of Rs 120.66 crore in July 2015, and certain defects were noticed in the training aids but these were not rectified.

The training aids, therefore, could not be commissioned. Training was, therefore, imparted to pilots directly on Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers in live sortie flying mode, it said.

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CAG picks holes in Railway’s elaborate plans for Kumbh Mela

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Prayagraj, Kumbh 2019

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Wednesday pointed out various shortcomings in Railways’ elaborate plans to control rail traffic during the Kumbh Mela in 2019.

In the report tabled in both Parliament, the government auditor slammed the railways for failing to address issues such as running of special trains, works related to passenger amenities and safety, medical facilities to passengers, and waste management at station premises during the massive religious gathering.

It said that this led to inconvenience to passengers, who were not adequately addressed by the railways.

“Temporary fencing at vulnerable locations (track and station entry point) were not completed. This led to cases of free movement of cattle on tracks and passengers trespassing. Audit noted that the Railway estimated (September 2018) an evacuation of 33 lakh passengers, which was subsequently revised (December 2018) to 45.48 lakh. Railways initiated a figure of 73.66 lakh evacuation of passengers during Mela period,” it said.

It also noted that the Railways planned 821 special trains, but ran only 565.

“A significantly higher number of passengers, with fewer special trains resulted in large overcrowding of trains and caused much inconvenience to passengers,” it said.

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