18:32 GMT28 February 2020
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    Christian Michel is accused of bribing Indian Air Force officials, including former service chief S.P. Tyagi, to manipulate the operational requirement of the choppers in favour of AgustaWestland in a multi-million dollar deal that was later cancelled.

    A Delhi court on Monday allowed British defence dealer Christian Michel to make 15 minutes in international calls in a week to lawyers and family abroad. Michel was arrested by the Indian investigative agency CBI in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case after his extradition from Dubai last month and has been in judicial custody since then. Michel's lawyer had moved the court, claiming that the jail authorities had rejected Michel's plea seeking permission to contact his family and lawyer.

    Last Thursday, India's Ministry of External Affairs said that it had "granted consular access" and a British high commission official had met Michel following the permission.  

    A deal valued at $753 million for the procurement of 12 AW-101 helicopters from Italian-owned UK-based AgustaWestland was cancelled in January 2014, four years after the deal was inked, on the grounds that Agusta had violated the integrity pact and agreement.

    READ MORE: India Initiates Legal Action Against Italian Firm’s Ex-Chief

    The 12 choppers were meant for the communication squadron of the Indian Air Force to carry the president, prime minister, and other dignitaries. Former Indian Air Force Chief S.P. Tyagi (retired from service in 2007), along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and the alleged mastermind of the bribery, Gautam Khaitan, were arrested in December 2016.

    In its charge sheet, India's apex investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, alleged that Tyagi had taken bribes through Khaitan from AgustaWestland to change the specifications, such as the operational flight ceiling from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres, and bringing down the cabin height to 1.8 metres. Earlier, in 2002, Agusta's bid to win the contract was rejected, as its AW-101 helicopter failed to fly at 6,000 metres.

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    international, call, bribery, prison, India's Central Bureau of Investigation, AgustaWestland, India, Britain
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