Not Aware of Budget Note Hinting at Cong Leaders: Christian Michel
Exclusive | “Don’t know about the note with acronyms ‘AP’ and ‘Fam’,” says AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel
Christian Michel, one of the main accused in the VVIP chopper AgustaWestland scam, has reacted to The Quint’s interview with another middleman of the case, Guido Haschke.
He denied having dictated the controversial ‘budget note’ to Haschke, as claimed by the latter, which mentions two acronyms ‘AP’ and ‘Fam’. He also said that he was repeatedly asked about his contacts with Indian politicians.
Michel, who is in Tihar jail, replied to a set of questions posed by us through his lawyers.
The agencies had been claiming that a note was dictated by Michel to Haschke. It mentioned several acronyms including ‘AP’ and ‘Fam’. Agencies have also claimed that ‘AP’ stands for senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and ‘Fam’ stands for family, which could be the Gandhi family.
“I don’t know about the note. I never instructed Haschke to write notes. The origin of the note is not known to me.”
Christian Michel to The Quint
What is the ‘Budget Note’
In an exclusive interview to The Quint, Haschke had said that Michel dictated the above ‘budget note’ to him in 2008. Haschke further added that while dictating the note, Michel hinted that this could be the approximate cost AgustaWestland has to incur for concluding the VVIP chopper deal with Indian authorities.
The note is divided in three sections, ‘AF’, AirForce, ‘Bur’, Bureaucrats and ‘Pol’, Politics. The sticky points in the note are the acronyms ‘AP’ and ‘Fam’. The amount mentioned next to the acronyms are the alleged commissions paid for getting the VVIP chopper deal through.
Haschke had told The Quint that he doesn’t know what ‘AP’ stands for, nor did Michel clarify it to him when he was dictating it. On ‘Fam’, Haschke said that it stands for family but he doesn’t know which family.
Haschke had also said that the note was Michel’s “figment of imagination” and that Michel was a “name-dropper”.
The Indian investigating agencies are considering this note to be a crucial piece of evidence because this will help them reach the doorsteps of senior Congress leaders.
However, whether the court will accept it as an evidence is questionable because of two reasons. One, it is vague, i.e, carries no date or time. Second, the Italians have already dismissed it as a piece of evidence in their judgment on the case.
I was Asked About my Political Contacts in India: Michel
Michel was extradited to India on 2 December 2018 from Dubai. Before he was sent to Tihar jail, Michel was in CBI’s custody for 14 days and after that in the ED’s custody for another 14 days.
The Quint asked Michel about the line of questioning by the agencies.
“The most repeated question was who is ‘AP’ and ‘FAM’. [I was] enquired about all my business, contract with Agusta, my political contacts in India, persons I met in India...etc.”
The Quint has learnt from sources in the agencies that they failed to establish any connection between Michel and Congress leaders while he was in the CBI and the ED’s custody.
“Michel didn’t name any Congress politician during his questioning. He didn’t say what ‘AP’ or ‘Fam’ stand for. Till now, we have not been able to gather any evidence against any Congress politician.”Source
Recently, the ED had written to Michel’s lawyer seeking their help to access his bank statements.
“We have some evidence of Michel’s bank statement but it has not come from an authentic source as the Lloyd bank has refused to share the details with us. Hence, we requested Michel’s lawyers to share it with us. But they are not cooperating. So far we don’t have evidence to prove that Congress leaders or the former IAF chief SP Tyagi received bribes in the deal.”
Contract With Agusta Was To Establish Manufacturing Unit in India: Michel
The Indian agencies have claimed that Michel entered into as many as 12 contracts with AgustaWestland through two of his firms namely M/s Global Trade & Commerce Ltd in London and M/s Global Services FZE to receive kickbacks.
Agencies have also claimed that Euro 42.27 million (Rs 295 crore approx.) was transferred to his companies by AgustaWestland’s subsidiary company, Finmeccanica, without undertaking any concrete work.
Michel denies receiving any kickback money through these contracts.
“It was one of the biggest offset contracts entered for the purpose of establishing a manufacturing unit in India for Agusta. And 30 other works were itemised in the contract,” he says.
The Quint has accessed one of the contracts which was signed between Michel and AgustaWestland on 1 March 2010, a month after the 12 VVIP chopper deal contract was signed between India and AgustaWestland.
In this contract, AgustaWestland agreed to pay Euro 275,000 (Rs 2.20 crore) to Michel every month for 22 months. Which means Rs 48.40 crore in total.
The contract says that Michel’s company has to “advise, assist and execute all duties that the Company (AgustaWestland) may reasonably request in relation to the execution of the contract and the offset contract.”
The Quint has learnt that the agencies have documents and names of a few alleged shell companies to which bribe money was routed to through Michel’s companies. But the question is whether the agencies will be able to follow the entire money trail or reach a dead-end.
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