NEW DELHI: When Christian Michel James, the enigmatic British-born defence dealer, came on the radar of Indian agencies in the `3,600 crore VVIP chopper scam in January 2013, a government official noted it is possible to bring him to justice since foreign counterparts are cooperative. The multi-agency probe, started in April 2013, followed by a stack of Letter Rogatoryies to various countries and non-bailable warrants, have resulted in endless days of waiting. Last month, Intelligence officials armed with files on the deal, visited Dubai secretly to locate Michel.
The files had incriminating evidence against Michel, who allegedly played a key role to swing the deal in favour of the Italian company AgustaWestland. Assured of all possible assistance from the UAE, Indian officials shared details of his last known address and business venture ‘Global Services FZE’ in Dubai. Four phone calls made by him on February 15 and June 5, 2010, to an Indian number were also shared to locate the address and identify the subscriber. Eleven other calls were made between July 27 and 28, 2011. The CBI, initiated the process of issuing an Interpol Red Corner notice against Michel released on December 1, which carries a faded photograph.
Intelligence officials, according to top sources, are looking into key players meeting Michel in Dubai. They have sought details related to Christine Bredo Spliid, a Danish citizen who worked for Michel. He was single shareholder of Beetle Nut, a company allegedly floated by Michel in October 2009 to launder kickbacks.
According to sources, Spliid’s footprints have been found in India and Dubai between 2010 to 2012 when the deal was signed with Agustawestland and alleged kickbacks were divided between middlemen Guido Haschke and Michel. Sources said Spliid was in India in February, 2012 and left for Dubai on Emirates Flight number 517 on February 20. Officials want to examine details related to Spliid’s stay in Dubai, her local contacts and places had visited. Spliid after spending 4 days in Dubai returned Delhi on February 24, 2012 on Emirates Flight 512 which reached Delhi at 2:40 AM. Intelligence officials want to know whether she tarveled to Dubai again in January 2013 when the probe against Michel had started in India. Sources said Spliid reached Delhi on December 30, 2012 at 11:30 am and travelled to Dubai to meet Michel.
Agencies are also seeking details related to Praveen Bakshi’s stay in Dubai in November 2010. Bakshi, an accused in chopper scam and CEO of Aeromatrix, made a trip to Dubai on November 20, 2010. He was booked on a Kingfisher airline flight number IT031. Agencies suspect that Bakshi may have met Michel. They a re also probing the stay of middleman Guido Haschke in Dubai. Sources said Haschke not only travelled to India but also flew to Dubai on February 5, 2008 on Emirates Flight 543 and stayed there for a few days. Some months later, Gautam Kahitan is suspected to have met Michel in Dubai. Sources said Khaitan left for Dubai on May 25, 2008 by Indian Airlines Flight IC 897. Agencies have sought details about another of his trips to Dubai on July 7, 2012 on Emirates Flight 515 number which departed for Dubai at 9.20pm.
While investigators are trying to decode Spliid’s movements in Delhi to dig deeper into Michel’s activities and whereabouts, they discovered she did not travel to Dubai and returned to Delhi, accompanied by a mysterious partner who could be linked to the scandal. She travelled alone to London on March 22, 2012 via Air India flight number 111 that departed for London at 2.45pm.
The mysterious visitor’s footprint was also traced in October, 2011 when Spliid arrived in Delhi on October 17 by Air India flight number 112 from London. Then, Agustawestland CEO Orsi Giuseppe was in Delhi. While Spliid left for Dubai accompanied by the suspect, Orsi on November 2, 2011 left for Zurich at 2 am by Swiss International Air Lines Flight number 147. India has asked Swiss authorities to share details related to Orsi trip. But details about the mysterious visitor are yet to come. Sources said the suspect may have travelled to Bangkok on August 4, 2010 after the deal was signed. They want more details to ascertain whether other key players were also present during this period. Sister agencies are helping in the probe.