The extradition of the alleged middleman, Christian James Michel, in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland case, from UAE on Tuesday, 4 December, is being called a big win by the investigative agencies. Michel is considered to be a key player, who might help the agencies with important information related to the beneficiaries of the alleged kickbacks in the VVIP chopper scam.
The Quint has learnt that the agencies have unearthed the money trail of the alleged bribe money, to the tune of Euro 42.27 million, which was transferred to Michel’s company’s bank account in Dubai by Finmeccanica – AgustaWestland’s parent company. But the agencies are yet to trace the trail beyond this. A source from one of the investigative agencies told The Quint that they were denied information by the banks when it was sought through the letter rogatory.
The allegation against Michel is that he acted as a middleman between the Indian authorities and AgustaWestland to monitor the activities in regard to the acquisition of the helicopter contract in India.
To achieve the contract, Michel allegedly bribed Indian bureaucrats and top politicians.
Till now, the agency has not been able to establish in its charge sheet the bribe money trail to one of the accused in the case – former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi.
A middleman in the case, Ralph Guido Haschke, in his statement in an Italian Court in connection with the AgustaWestland scam in 2016, had stated that no bribe was paid to SP Tyagi or his cousins.
‘AP’ and ‘Fam’: Michel to Help Decode Haschke’s Note
A note allegedly written by Haschke on the dictation of Michel during a meeting in London in 2008, had come to light during the former’s hearing by the Italian court.
During the hearing, Haschke revealed the relevance of this note. He said,
“Michel indicated to me in this document what he thought was his budget for this operation (the chopper deal), that is, the costs he would have incurred for this operation... in this contract (he) did not include what was pertaining to the family, the Tyagi brothers.”
During his hearing, Haschke managed to provide the full forms of most of the abbreviations mentioned in the note, except for that of ‘AP’ – that is mentioned in the politics section. He also said ‘Fam’ stands for family but couldn’t clarify which family was being referred to.
To know which politician or political party received bribes, the CBI will now seek Michel’s help to decode the full form of ‘AP’ and the identity of the family referred to in the note.
Michel’s lawyer had earlier claimed that the Indian investigating agencies had put pressure on his client to implicate former Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the scam, when Michel was questioned by the agencies in Dubai.
Money Trail Against Michel
The CBI has claimed that Michel got into 12 contracts through his two companies – Global Trade & Commerce Ltd in London and Global Services FZE in Dubai – with Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland.
These contracts were allegedly signed by Michel to receive kickbacks on the finalisation of the procurement contract of the VVIP chopper deal by the Ministry of Defence in India.
The CBI has claimed that Michel received the bribe money of Euro 42.27 million (Rs 295 crore) in the bank account of his company Global Services FZE in Dubai.
The CBI says this amount was received by Michel without actually undertaking any work which would justify the receipt of such a huge amount.
Now that the agency has a five-day custody of the alleged middleman, it is likely to confront him with details of bank accounts and the 12 alleged contracts. The investigating officers would like to get an answer to how the alleged bribe money was transferred to the Indian bureaucrats and politicians.
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