A Delhi court on Thursday (24) issued a non-bailable warrant for the arrest of British consultant Christian Michel James over a scandal-hit deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland to supply helicopters to India.
India suspended the deal in 2013 after Italian investigators began looking into accusations AgustaWestland paid bribes to win the contract for 12 helicopters intended for use by the prime minister and other VIPs.
“We had moved the court requesting for an open NBW (non-bailable warrant) against the accused who is a London-based consultant,” an official at India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told reporters.
“The court accepted our request today and issued the warrant,” he said.
Italian prosecutors suspect kickbacks worth about 10 per cent of the deal – €50 million (£37m) –were paid to Indian officials to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.
The Italian boss of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica was arrested in 2013 over the €556 million deal – setting off a firestorm in India.
The Press Trust of India said the CBI was seeking the custody of James – one of 13 main accused in the case – as the key link who managed political parties and players in Italy as well as in India.
In a submission before special court Judge Ajay Kumar Jain, prosecutors said custodial examination of James was “essential” as it would reveal his role in procuring the helicopters and help identify other accomplices, the news agency reported.
The CBI earlier sent summons for James, whose whereabouts are not known, although local media reports said he was likely to be in Dubai.
Indian detectives also raided the home of former air force chief SP Tyagi in 2013 as they investigated allegations of bribery.
Tyagi and Finmeccanica have denied any wrongdoing.
India has already received three of the helicopters, intended to be used by such dignitaries as the prime minister and the president, but delivery of the remaining nine was scrapped.
The deal was signed under India’s previous Congress-led government led by Manmohan Singh.