New Delhi: The line of questioning of AugustaWestland middleman James Christian Michel by CBI may centre around ferreting out from him the names of defence personnel, politicians belonging to the UPA and government officials who had allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with him with others in facilitating the Euro 556.262 million contract for acquiring VVIP choppers.
Sources said the probe would also include the money trail of the kickbacks of Euro 42.27 million which was said to have been paid by the Finmeccanica Group to the firms of Michel as kickbacks.
Agency officials said the 57-year-old middleman would be confronted with documents recovered during raids by Swiss authorities and shared with the CBI through Letters Rogatory (LRs). The LRs are documents used for making request through a foreign court to obtain information from specified person/s within the jurisdiction of that court. “These indicate bribes paid by Michel to the Indian authorities for securing the contract for the supply of VVIP helicopters,” an agency source said.
CBI officials said public servants abused their position as they allowed reducing the service ceiling of the VVIP helicopter from 6,000 to 4,500 metres and a contract awarded to the AWIL, UK, by the Indian government through Ministry of Defence on February 8, 2010.
“Michel was imposed as a controller on the other two middleman (Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa) already roped in by AgustaWestland as they had no specific knowledge in the sector of helicopters. Renzo Lunardi, the then commercial manager of AgustaWestland, proposed his appointment to which the CEO of the firm Giuseppe Orsi (2005-2011) agreed,” a source said.
Officials said that former IAF chief S P Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then Vice Chief of the Air Staff J S Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan can be summoned by the CBI again for questioning in the case. A CBI chargesheet has mentioned the four Indians.
Probe agencies had recovered hand-written diaries detailing the alleged kickbacks paid for the choppers. Michel has repeatedly denied writing the controversial diaries that mention “AP” and “family” while detailing the alleged kickbacks paid for the choppers. Michel has alleged that the diaries were written by Guido Haschke, another alleged middleman and a co-accused in the case.
Michel’s extradition comes as a major boost to the Indian agencies investigating the bribery angle in the contract. The action comes after the Court of Cassation in the UAE in November upheld a lower court order which said that Michel could be extradited to India.
Michel has been accused of bribing many politicians, officials and journalists to swing the deal. The Dubai government ordered his extradition on Tuesday.
In 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italian company Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying the choppers to the Indian Air Force over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks for securing the deal after revelations made during a judicial trial against the company in Italy.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate had, meanwhile, started investigations in India.