A shadowy figure inhabiting the murky world of arms deals is slowly emerging onto the daylight of investigation as the net closes around British defence agent Christian Michel who is allegedly involved in the AgustaWestland helicopter scam. Until Italian investigators supplied Indian investigators with information on Michel’s travels to New Delhi, the agencies had been totally clueless about the movements of this elusive arms agent. Exclusive investigation details accessed by The Sunday Standard reveal that 52-year-old Michel landed in Delhi on March 7, 2005. The new evidence also shows that the Dubai-based middleman made a dozen trips to India in 2005 at a time when the Centre was amending the operational requirements for VVIP choppers. “There is nothing called coincidence in the shady world of defence deals. It is about working the system to exploit for commission and Michel is suspected to be the key to unravelling this scam. We are probing details of his trips and meetings to find out the important links,” says a top intelligence official.
Going by information provided by Italian prosecutors to Indian agencies CBI and Enforcement Directorate, Michel apparently cornered the biggest chunk of the Rs 360 crore kickbacks —Rs 216 crore— using his slippery skills to bribe the Indian Air Force and Defence Ministry officials to swing the Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal in AgustaWestland’s favour.
Michel flew in and out of Delhi a dozen times between March and November 2005 at the time a committee comprising officials from Indian Air Force, National Security Advisor’s office, Special Protection Group and Ministry of Defence started deliberations to amend the operational requirements of VVIP helicopters. After certain objections were raised by the Prime Minister’s office in 2003, the IAF had decided to revise the requirements, including lowering of the flying altitude to facilitate entry of more players in the tender process.
Apart from amending technical specifications, the committee also revised the number of helicopters to be bought from 8 to 12.
The Sunday Standard