New Delhi: In the AgustaWestland scam, the middleman Christian Michel, British national, has approached the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Delhi and has agreed to join the probe but only in Dubai. He has agreed to reveal information related to Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal but at a condition that CBI must ask Interpol to withdraw pending red corner notice against him.
Christian, through his lawyers in London, has forwarded a letter to the CBI. In the missive, Christian said he is ready for questioning and has asked the CBI to provide him with the copy of all the charges against him in India. He has also requested for other documents that might be helpful for Michel to understand the background of the charges.
He also requested for a meeting in Dubai with any and all Indian authorities which may wish to ask him any questions regarding the matter but after that CBI should withdraw pending red corner notice against him.
Michel, however, said that he won’t travel to India for questioning by the authorities. He also said that he must be allowed to keep a video recording of the interrogation.
The letter was written on August 25 and was sent to the CBI through e-mail. This is for the first time that the key middleman has made a direct contact with the investigating agencies.
The Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against Michel last year on the request of CBI. He is facing charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, illegal gratification and abuse of official position for allegedly acting as middleman to influence the decision to purchase 12 VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland.
Sources said that upon the request of the CBI, the Interpol headquarters in France had issued the Red Corner Notice for Michel’s arrest.
India had signed the Rs 3,600 crore deal to acquire 12 three-engine AW-101 choppers from the Italian company for the services of VVIPs, including the President and the Prime Minister, in February 2010. Later allegations of corruption were levelled by Italian authorities. The agency, probing the case, had named 13 individuals including a former IAF chief in the FIR as accused.
It had alleged that reduction of service ceiling-- maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally-- allowed AgustaWestland to come into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.
The contract for 12 AW-101 helicopters was signed in February 2010. Three helicopters were delivered in 2011 and 2012, and about 30 per cent of the money was paid.
In February 2013, reports surfaced alleging that two top officials of AgustaWestland’s Italian parent, defence manufacturer Finmeccanica, had paid bribes to bag the Indian contract. An Italian inquiry into the deal forced India to investigate it too. The CBI started the probing the. In January 2014, the Ministry of Defence scrapped the contract for supply of 12 AW101 three-engine helicopters for VVIP use and freeze all payments.