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paper was checked, it had questions related to Sonia Gandhi, the agency added, and wanted the lawyer’s access to Michel withdrawn.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.
The Enforcement Directorate said it wanted Michel’s custody for eight more days, but the court this evening extended the custody by a week.
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.