Early this year, 32-year-old Sheikha Lathifa, the daughter of Dubai Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, fled her country across the border to Oman, before boarding a yacht with French national Hervé Jaubert. Before fleeing, Lathifa in a video said she had first tried to escape when she was 16 but nabbed and admitted to a hospital, where she was administered drugs for 3 months. She was later imprisoned for three years. She claimed lack of freedom as the reason for fleeing.
The fleeing princess set sail for the Indian coast but was intercepted by the Navy. Jaubert later claimed to the British press that he and his crew were beaten and Latifa was whisked away to Goa. The woman sought asylum but India handed her over to the UAE, overlooking human rights issues.
The single consideration of the Modi Government has become clear now. Diplomatic and intelligence circles privately say the Modi Government had just struck a hard bargain by telling UAE that it would hand over Lathifa — whose safety is a matter of concern among rights activists in the West — if the UAE would extradite Christian Michel, the middleman wanted in India for the VVIP chopper bribery case. It also possibly explains why the UAE just backed off from the promised aid to Kerala after the huge sum offered became an embarrassment to the Modi Government since it exceeded what was initially offered by the Centre to the state.
The story of the fleeing Dubai princess was reported in the British press and in a few Indian publications. However, no one tried to track what happened to the princess and its connection to Michel’s extradition. What do we have instead? The morons running news channels in India are competing to say they have ‘exclusive photos’ of how Christian Michel looks now, apart from broadcasting BJP propaganda.
Michel is the first non-Indian to be extradited from UAE. Not that even Indians can be easily extradited from the UAE. For more than two decades, India had demanded the extradition of Dawood Ibrahim, who blasted Mumbai in 1993, and is wanted for several underworld crimes thereafter too. But the UAE kept saying that he was a legitimate businessman based in Dubai, until a few years ago, when he was allowed to flee to Pakistan.
Michel’s case is even more curious because he is not a citizen of either India or UAE but a British national. Was it not diplomatic foolishness for UAE to overlook this while he was extradited? One has to infer that the debt Dubai PM feels for Modi is so much that diplomatic apprehensions would have been brushed off without even a second thought.
The sole idea of Modi, meanwhile, is to create a perception that Michel paid bribes to Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party. That is one of the election planks that the BJP is readying as it faces the heat of the allegations on the Rafale deal. While BJP does this, the duty of the media would be to explain these things to the general public. Instead, it has chosen to become the mouthpiece of the BJP.
For example, the Indian media has not realised that Britain will not take kindly to one of its citizens being held in India, over allegations of paying bribes, since UAE made the extradition. There is the example of Peter Bleach, who was sent back before his prison term ended for dropping arms in Purulia. There is also the recent case of the Italian marines who killed two fishermen in Kerala but India finally allowed them to go back to Italy. Italian pressure forced India to agree for a manslaughter case to be tried at the International Court of Justice! There is speculation that Michel’s collaborator Guido Hascke has cooperated on Rome’s deal to save the marines. There is scope to explore if New Delhi would pressure London to handover Vijay Mallya in lieu of Michel at some stage when Michel ceases to be a poll plank.
The media needs to explain the Agusta case. It has to say that the scam starts when the Vajpayee Government changed parameters on height for purchase of VVIP helicopters to enable Agusta to compete and win the tender. It needs to add the Vajpayee Government’s decision was endorsed by the UPA Government, leading to suspicion that there were people who could swing the deal, irrespective of whoever was in power.
It also needs to say that the case came up purely by accident when Hascke’s diary was ceased during a raid in Italy while some other case was investigated. It needs to say that while Hascke contends he made the notings on orders of a dyslexic Michel, the latter contends that Hascke made up the noting to pin the blame on Michel. There is also a question why a dyslexic didn’t type the notes into a computer.
The media needs to inform the public, if it is not part of the BJP propaganda machine, that the investigators have already said the diary noting ‘FAM’ stood for the family of former Air Force chief Tyagi. It needs to say that the Supreme Court had ruled in the Vineet Narain Jain hawala case that the dairy notings was considered insufficient proof to prosecute politicians such as L K Advani.
It needs to say that the Supreme Court had recently reiterated the Vineet Narain ruling when it dismissed a Public Interest Litigation on diaries seized from the Sahara Group. Petitioner Prashanth Bhushan had alleged that the diaries seized during the Income-Tax Department raids showed that the multi-thousand crore defaulter Sahara had made payments to politicians, including to then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi.
It needs to say that the UPA Government had cancelled the Agusta deal as soon as the allegations of bribes were made abroad and the bank guarantees of the chopper company were withdrawn and the nation, hence, did not make any losses. It also needs to say that whatever be the truth, the Agusta bribery would be raised by the BJP during polls to counter the Congress on the Rafale deal and that would be the only purpose Michel’s extradition could serve.
PS: After almost a year of silence, the Dubai Government in its first response on Sheika Lathifa said last week that she ‘was kidnapped, but now reunited with her family and was set to celebrate her 33rd birthday’. The BBC, meanwhile, will broadcast a programme on the ‘runaway princess’, after one British national has been handed over to India by UAE. It’s all just a coincidence, may be.
(Published on 10th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 50)