CBI seeks arrest of middleman Christian Michel in VVIP chopper scam
New Delhi: The CBI has asked Interpol to arrest Christian Michel, a British businessman who was allegedly paid millions of dollars by AgustaWestland to influence politicians and officials in Italy and India to seal the deal.
The Interpol had in January this year re-notified a global Red Corner Notice (RCN) against the British national after money laundering charges were pressed against him by the Enforcement Directorate. An RCN, according to Interpol, is issued to seek the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action in a criminal case probe.
According to reports, Michel sent a major chunk of the bribe money, 30 million euros (over Rs 220 crore) to India for ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi, his cousins and others. The 54-yr-old London-based consultant also made more than 100 trips to India since 1993 and is known to have met many politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen over the years.
Italian prosecutors had argued that Michel and Guido Hashke, a Swiss-Italian national, worked together to influence Indian officials to pick Agusta's choppers. The Italian court, which has held that the Agusta sale involved corruption, has devoted a full chapter to Michel in its judgement. Italian prosecutors alleged that Michel was a key player in the VVIP chopper deal.
It is also alleged that Michel paid for trips and luxury stays of Indian officials including two retired IAF officers of air marshal and group captain rank.
A report in Times of India cited top CBI officials saying that they have finished the India leg of the probe and would soon file a chargesheet naming Indian officials.
Meanwhile, the BJP has targeted Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders on the issue of bribes in the AugustaWestland chopper deal during the UPA regime. The top brass of the BJP including Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley yesterday met to chalk out a strategy following Italian court verdict that AugustaWestland paid bribes to top Congress leaders to bag the Rs 3,600 crore deal.
The Italian court judgement stated that the firm lobbied with Sonia Gandhi and her close aides besides the then NSA MK Narayanan and the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sonia was described as the "driving force" by the judge behind the deal.