Christian Michel named ‘Mrs Gandhi’, ‘son of the Italian lady’: ED to Court

Christian Michel named ‘Mrs Gandhi’, ‘son of the Italian lady’: ED to Court
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New Delhi, December 29: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Saturday told a Delhi Court that during the interrogation of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, “Mrs Gandhi’s name came up” and before a follow up question, he passed a chit to his lawyers seeking directions to “on what to say”.
Michel, who is an accused in Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, was extradited from UAE in December and is currently is ED custody. The agency sought an extension of eight more days, but the special court granted seven days custody.
“Michel took Mrs Gandhi’s name and we wanted to ask a follow-up question. His lawyers had come and suddenly he handed a chit to them. He was caught red-handed by the doctors…He was actually seeking some direction on what to say and also to inform someone outside on the line of questioning,” ED’s Special Public Prosecutor DP Singh submitted.
Singh also objected to the legal access given to Michel twice a day. He also submitted an incident report to the judge. Singh said that in one of the contract negotiation documents it is mentioned “son of an Italian lady…Going to be the next PM”. “We have to also confront him with these documents…We have to identify proceeds of crime,” Singh told the court.
He further said officials who had been paid money near the North Block had to be identified. The ED also asserted that a “big man” referred to as “R” in communication between Michel and other people needed to be deciphered. “We need to confront Michel with other people to decipher who “the big man” or “R” is,” he told the court.
Michel’s lawyer Aljo Joseph, however, did not dispute the fact that a chit was handed to him. “It was bound to happen. It is a very cramped room. However, we did not see anything,” he said.
In its remand petition, the ED said Michel’s custody was required to identify the places and hide-outs where he held meetings and gave bribes to entertain officials and public figures. The ED also said the modus operandi adopted by the accused to eliminate Tata and HAL from competition in the deal was also being investigated.
“Steps undertaken to mask/potray the present deal as a British deal instead of Italian deal to gain advatage in light observation helicopters. How the accused violated and misused information leading to actions under the officials secrets act are other key issues being probed,” the Ed said.
It may be recalled that Italian probe authorities had claimed to have discovered a handwritten note that mentioned payments against code words such as “pol”, “Bur” and “Family”. Michel, however, has claimed the note was fake and prepared by another middleman Guido Haschke.
Michel, 54, is one of the three alleged middlemen being investigated in Rs. 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam for allegedly organising bribes for Indian politicians and bureaucrats to push for the AgustaWestland deal, involving 12 luxury choppers, during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
In 2014, the government scrapped the contract amid allegations that AgustaWestland, whose parent company Finmeccanica faced charges of bribery in Italy, had paid kickbacks in India.
The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of 398.21 million Euros (about Rs. 2,666 crore) in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million Euros.
The Enforcement Directorate has accused Michel of receiving 30 million Euros (about Rs. 225 crore) from AgustaWestland as kickbacks.
In July, Michel’s lawyer had alleged that he was being pressured by Indian agencies to frame Sonia Gandhi in return for amnesty from criminal proceedings.
Meanwhile, a political war of words has begun between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress after Enforcement Directorate revealed that alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland case Christian Michel has named ‘Mrs Gandhi’ and ‘son of the Italian lady’ during questioning.
Launching an attack on the ‘family’ named by Michel, the BJP alleged that the former Congress-led Centre compromised with national security. “The revelations by ED show that there is ‘son of Italian lady’, ‘big man’ and ‘R’ involved. It points to a family. Congress government was a govt of corruption that compromised with national security,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
The Congress alleged that there is pressure on Michel to name a family. Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, Congress spokesperson RPN Singh said: “There is pressure on Michel to name a particular family, why is the chowkidaar trying to pressurise the government agencies to name a family? BJP scriptwriters are working over time.” (Agencies)