India rebuffs UN criticism of UK arms dealer's detention

·2 min read
British national Christian Michel James (C) has been detained in India since 2018 on charges of bribing and conspiring with Delhi officials over a major helicopter deal

India on Saturday hit back at UN rights experts who accused the country of jailing a British arms dealer extradited from the United Arab Emirates in a suspected swap for a runaway princess.

Christian Michel has been imprisoned in India since December 2018 after he was extradited from Dubai on charges of bribing and conspiring with Delhi officials over a major helicopter deal.

On Friday the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) raised concerns that his extradition represented "a de facto swap" for India's capture and return of a high-profile detainee to the UAE, without providing more details.

Michel's detention was politically motivated and without a legal basis, WGAD said, demanding his immediate release and compensation from both nations.

But India's foreign ministry Saturday rejected the assessment and accused the expert group of bias, accusing them of having an "inaccurate understanding of the country's criminal justice system".

They said that Michel's removal was permitted under an extradition treaty between the states.

"The arrest and subsequent custody were done as per the due process of law and cannot be considered arbitrary on any grounds," it said.

The ministry added that Michel has been given all legal rights.

New Delhi did not directly comment, however, on allegations his extradition were part of a "de facto exchange" for princess Sheikha Latifa, daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Latifa attempted to flee her homeland in December 2018 on a boat that was intercepted by commandos off India's coast, according to the UK-based group Detained in Dubai.

The UN group of independent experts also did not name Sheikha Latifa, who media reports say has been in detention since the interception.

The swap was reportedly authorised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bolster his image as being tough on corruption.

New Delhi cancelled the AgustaWestland deal -- agreed under a previous government in 2010 -- in January 2014 amid allegations the firm paid bribes to win the $677 million contract for 12 helicopters.

Indian investigators charged Michel in 2017, when he was working in the UAE, with arranging $52 million as kickbacks.

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