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Mrs Gandhi" and "the son of the Italian lady" names appear in the VVIP Chopper scam


NEW DELHI, 29 DEC. Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, has named "Mrs Gandhi" and "the son of the Italian lady" while in custody, the Enforcement Directorate informed a court in Delhi today. Though the investigating agency did not specify the context used by Michel, his reference was seen aimed at Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi.

Christian Michel, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate over money laundering charges in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam after he was extradited from the UAE earlier this month, was produced in Delhi's Patiala House Court after seven days in the probe agency's custody.

"We need to decipher who is this 'big man' referred to as 'R' is in the communication between Christian Michel and other people. We need to confront Michel with other people to decipher this," the Enforcement Directorate told the court.

The probe agency said the British national had handed over a piece of paper while shaking hands with his lawyer. When that paper was checked, it had questions related to Sonia Gandhi, the agency added, and wanted the lawyer's access to Michel withdrawn. To which the court replied that the lawyer can meet Michel for 15 minutes in the morning and the evening instead of the usual hour long meet, but will have to maintain a three-feet distance.

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 (UPA) 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.2,666crore) 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.

An investigation carried out by the Italian agencies in the AgustaWestland case prove that the Italian middlemen allegedly involved in the VVIP helicopter deal shared a close business association with former Air Force Chief, SP Tyagi’s brother, Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie Tyagi, even before they made ‘arrangements’ to swing a deal in favour of M/s AgustaWestland.

Italian authorities have shared many documents related to the investigation with the Indian government which has proved that Julie Tyagi, the cousin of the then Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi,shared ‘business relations’ with the alleged Italian middlemen involved in the fraud and the business arrangement ranged in a variety of sectors, from oil, gas to railways.

Along with the alleged involvement of Christian Michel, who has been recently extradited to India, the Italian probe has also revealed the crucial role of Carlo Gerosa, the third alleged middleman and partner of Guido Haschke inthe AgustaWestland scam.

The intercepted conversation between Gerosa and Julie Tyagi and Haschke’s questioning by Italian investigators have further cleared the closeness Julie Tyagi and Gerosa shared, as the duo explicitly referred to each other as “brothers.”

Haschke in his statement to Italian investigators revealed, Gerosa’s was a “friendship that became a business contact with this Indian family of businessmen.” He further claimed that Gerosa was the one who introduced him to Julie.

While Haschke and Gerosa were appointed by M/s AgustaWestland to “manage” the Tyagi brothers, Christian Michel, was allegedly given mandate to “execute the contract”, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The investigations, apart from revealing the close ‘business association’ between the alleged middleman and the Tyagi’s also earlier threw light on the alleged involvement of a ‘family’ in the entire scam.

Earlier, the information of a detailed communication between Christian Michel and Haschke on August 11, 2009, shared with the CBI by the Swiss authorities mentioned the extent of the involvement of a ‘family’ in the AgustaWestland scam. Letters written by Micheal to Haschke emerged talking about kickbacks paid to a ‘family’. Michel in his letter to Haschke also flagged a ‘problem’ with his dealing with the ‘family’.

Reports have stated that other accessed documents by the CBI refer to kickbacks being mentioned against ‘family and ‘AP’.

Some reports say that Haschke had stated that the ‘family’ in the documents refer to the Tyagi family, referring to the then Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and his family members. However, the documents are dated 2009, which is 2 years after SP Tyagi had retired from his post. Many also believe that it refers to the Gandhi family and ‘AP’ means Ahmed Patel. However, the “documentary evidence” of business relations between Haschke and the Tyagi brothers starting in 2004 which has been gathered, reveals that Haschke was already operating in India. As per the Italian investigators, the “business correspondence(s)” proves the “supporting” activity that Haschke carried out in India was in collaboration with the Tyagis.

SP Tyagi, along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie Tyagi and a Delhi-based lawyer, Gautam Khaitan was accused of money laundering, fraud and corruption. The CBI arrested them in July this year on the charges of criminal conspiracy and illegal gratification in the VVIP chopper deal scam. However, in September 2018, Tyagis and the other accused were granted bail by the court on a bond of Rs.1 lakh each and the same amount as surety.

Tyagi and his cousin are accused of receiving bribes for modifying the specifications of choppers to benefit the seller. CBI asserted in their charge sheet that Tyagi even reduced the minimum ceiling height for choppers from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet so as to ensure Agusta’s qualification as a seller. CBI has also alleged that Tyagi made several trips to Italy to meet the middlemen.

According to recorded conversations and documents shared by Italy with the CBI and ED, Agusta middlemen Haschke and Gerosa accompanied Tyagi to the airport of Milan. SP Tyagi was affectionately called as ‘gorgeous girl’ by Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, the two middlemen in AgustaWestland deal. Earlier, in July 2018, Italy had refused to extradite the middlemen Haschke and Gerosa to India, citing no legal treaty between the two countries.

Various politicians, officials and military officers involved in the scam are heading towards a catastrophe as Christian Michel is expected to further spill the beans.



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