CBI Offered Immunity If I Pushed Their Agenda Against Oppn: Michel
In an interview to CNN-News18 in August 2018, alleged AugustaWestland middleman Christian Michel had said he was being targeted as part of an agenda by the CBI against the Opposition and there was no evidence against him in the case.
Michel said there were two trails of payments made but his trail was forensically audited and checked.
“It is correct that there are two chains but my chain has been forensically audited. My accounts have been checked many, many years ago. Where the money went, what it was used for… The other chain has asked for a plea bargain... They have avoided interrogation... They have never been brought to book for their activities…My accounts have been audited… That is the difference between the two chains,” he told CNN-News18.
In early 2013, India struck a deal with helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland on the purchase of a new fleet of helicopters for VVIPs.
However, several politicians and military officials have been accused of accepting bribes from AgustaWestland in order to win the ₹36 billion (US$500 million) Indian contract.
While expressing his love for India, Michel denied having any political connections and said he was paying a price for his father’s political connections in India.
Michel was extradited to India in the wee hours of Wednesday, 5 December.
‘CBI’s Agenda Was to Damage the Opposition Party’
“Let me make it clear that there is no evidence of me paying money to any politician or having contacts with any political party. My father had a political relationship in India, a very deep relationship in India, and I am paying the price for that. Just because he had a relationship, doesn't mean I do too,” he said.
Michel further alleged that the CBI wanted to target the Opposition through an agenda and wanted him to follow the agenda too.
“It has always been a weak defence to say that you are being politically targeted. I have always avoided saying this. This defence was unreasonable till I met the CBI in person and found out their agenda was to damage the Opposition party and they wanted me to follow the agenda too,” he told the channel.
“There were three meetings. The first was just beating around the bush. They were showing me files that I had already seen in Italy several times. The second focused on key issues; the budget sheet was discussed. I never wrote this budget sheet and had no idea about it,” he added.
“He [official] said if I say who these people are, all cases against me will be dropped. I will be made a witness and not an accused, will not be brought to India and will have my life back. That was the deal which happened in the final meeting at around 10.30 in the evening. So I said that I need some time to think over and give the best statement I can. But he understood that I cannot make such a statement as it is not true. It never happened,” he said.
“I was told that if I don’t agree, I will be sent to jail and three days later, I was arrested,” he said, adding that the last meeting with the CBI was “absolutely political” as the agency said ‘this is what we want…rest is irrelevant’,” he added.
In July 2018, after he was granted bail in Dubai, Michel accused Indian investigators of pressuring him to name UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and frame senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in return of a clean chit in the multi-crore scam.
On 19 July, while he was in custody, his lawyer, Rosemary Patrizi, had made similar charges against the Indian probe agencies, although the CBI had denied the allegations.
Developments in September
Reports emerged in September of a Dubai court ordering the extradition of Michel, the knowledge of which the CBI denied having.
Earlier, MEA sources had also told ANI that although the accused has a right to appeal, the final call will be taken by the UAE, which has not made any formal confirmation to India.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had termed the purported order of a Dubai court to extradite Michel as a positive development on Wednesday and said the news has created a "sense of unease" in some leaders here.
The ED had found out that the 51-year-old kingpin, who allegedly helped Finmeccanica executives secure the VVIP chopper deal worth Rs 3,600 crore, was paid a kickback of 26 million pounds.
The ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received about Rs 225 crore from AgustaWestland.
The money was nothing but “kickbacks” paid by the firm to execute the 12-helicopter deal in favour of the firm in “guise of” genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, the ED said.
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol Red Corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him.
Michel had been extensively interviewed by the Indian media in Dubai in the past, and both the agencies wanted him to join the probe to take the case forward.
AgustaWestland became eligible to supply the dozen helicopters for VVIP flying duties after this change.
What Did the Investigation Uncover?
The ED investigation found that remittances made by Michel through his Dubai-based firm, Global Services, to a media firm he floated in Delhi, along with two Indians, were made from the funds which he got from AgustaWestland through “criminal activity” and corruption being done in the chopper deal that led to the subsequent generation of the proceeds of crime.
On 1 January 2014, India scrapped 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 charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.
(With inputs from PTI)