70mn euros paid to UPA leaders, others: ED's Agusta charge sheet

IANS
Friday, 5 April 2019

"Mrs Gandhi" and some other senior Congress leaders (the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, M. Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, M.K. Narayanan, and Vinay Singh) were named as "key advisors" in the dispatch but not named as accused in the case, sources said.

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in its fourth supplementary charge sheet has mentioned that kickbacks worth 70 million euros were paid to "important political persons of the ruling party, media persons, defence officials and bureaucrats" in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

The charge sheet filed against British national and middleman Christian Michel before a city court on Thursday said that the kickbacks were at least 12 per cent of the contract amount. 

"An amount of around 70 million euros was paid through two middlemen," ED told the court. 

The court has fixed Saturday for taking congnizance of the ED's supplementary charge sheet and to decide whether the accused should be summoned. 

The charge sheet mentions that "30 million euros was paid by AgustaWestland to Air Force officers, bureaucrats and politicians as per the budget sheet", sources in the know said. 

It also disclosed that it was an undisputed fact that kickbacks of at least 70 million euros was received by two chains of middlemen represented by Michel and Guido Haschke from AgustaWestland for successful conclusion of the deal in favour of.

Michel was arrested after his extradition from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on December 4, 2018. As per his deposition and statements from others, as well as copies of the bank accounts of AgustaWestland, various agreements were discussed in details.

Michel is currently lodged in Tihar jail and named in the charge sheet as an accused.

Another 42 million euros were also paid to the bank account of Michel in his companies Global Services FZE in UAE and Global Trade, the charge sheet said. 

On one occasion the charge sheet mentions the word 'AP' describing it as Ahmed Patel and another word 'Fam' means family. 

The charge sheet has also listed a series of "dispatches" between February 2008 and October 2009 by Michel, including one dated March 15, 2008 that mentioned "Mrs Gandhi" as the driving force behind the V.I.P. informing that she will not fly any more in the Mi-8. 

"The dispatches mentions that 'Mrs Gandhi' and her closest advisors are the people the High Commission should target." 

"Mrs Gandhi" and some other senior Congress leaders (the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, M. Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, M.K. Narayanan, and Vinay Singh) were named as "key advisors" in the dispatch but not named as accused in the case, sources said.

However, it was not clear who "Mrs Gandhi" is and in which context her name was mentioned.

Another dispatch dated August 12, 2009, mentioned that National Security Advisor (NSA) to the Prime Minister had received a briefing from Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) -- external intelligence -- about the threat environment.

On top of it, the charge sheet said: "All our other contracts are working at the problem. Even the Special Protection Group (SPG) has written to the Cabinet secretary and NSA. The problem will be sorted out... Nothing in the articles should have been a surprise to A.W." 

It is also learnt that kickbacks were paid separately under different agreements between companies of Michel, Haschke and AgustaWestland. 

The legal document submitted to the court also mentions that Michel, Guido Haschke and his associate Carlo Gerosa -- all middlemen in the case -- made payment to defence officials, bureaucrats and political leaders. 

The charge sheet has named Michel's partner David Syms and his company Global Services Ltd and Global Trading Ltd as accused in the case. Michel had used the companies as a conduit for receiving money.

The ED said that the bribe from AugustaWestland was routed through Global Services and Global Trading and that further investigation was going on over the role of politicians and bureaucrats involved in the case.

The charge sheet also mentioned names of three Indian journalists. The names of these journalists are, however, not mentioned in the list of accused persons. 

As per the charge sheet, Michel had used important personalities in the field of media in order to influence the public opinion.

The document also said that Michel used media personalities as evident from trail of payment made to one Raju Santhanam.

It mentioned that "as per Casana sheet, a payment of 2,05860.40 euros was made to Ashwin Santhanam, son of Raju Santhanam, in addition to booking an air ticket for him and his family for a total amount of Rs 26.50 lakh".

Michel has accepted that he had made such payments and admitted to hiring services of one Guy Douglas to influence the media and this fact is further corroborated by act of using influence on journalists "Manu Pubby and Shekhar Gupta to tone down the article in Indian Express", said sources.

"Michel also deposed that Douglas was in touch with several journalists."

The charge sheet filed before Special Judge Arvind Kumar added three new names to the list of the accused, taking the count of individuals and firms that stand accused to 41.

David Nigel John Syms, who the ED claimed was Michel's business partner, and two firms owned by them, Global Trade and Commerce Ltd and Global Services FZE, were also included in it. 

The case pertains to the supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force that was scrapped on January 1, 2014 with Italy-based Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland over an alleged breach of contractual obligation and charges of paying kickback.

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