According to a report by Times of India, AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel had access to information which even the then Defense Minister under UPA government, AK Antony was not aware of. CBI claimed this after it accessed fax message allegedly sent by Christian Michel to the then senior vice-president of AgustaWestland firm in January 2010.
In the fax, Michel claimed that he had to ‘’virtually engage the entire UPA cabinet” to swing the VVIP chopper deal in favour of the Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland, which is now known as Leonardo. He had to overcome the resistance put up by the then finance secretary who was sympathetic to the Russian lobby (to buy Mi-172 helicopters), he further added.
Michel had very deep sources in the UPA government. In the fax, he assured officials at AgustaWestland about the negotiation of the deal despite the hindrance by the finance secretary. He pointed out the fact that a “very high-level interventions” helped him in the negotiation. Further, he confidently informed Giacomo Saponaro, the then senior vice-president for international business of AgustaWestland that the deal would land in their favor in not more than one week. Also, the pressure was exerted by the American and the Russian companies who were competing with AgustaWestland in the chopper deal. Interestingly, the pricing of the deal was reserved for the finance secretary to decide.
But as predicted by Michel, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) led by former PM Manmohan Singh cleared the proposal of 12 VVIP helicopters in the favor of AgustaWestland. CBI officials suspected that the fax was sent from his Mumbai office just before the final decision.
According to Michel, the Russian lobby had a strong connection with the then finance secretary. The middleman accused the Russians of bribing Indian politicians, bureaucrats, and Indian Airforce officials. The office of finance secretary, Michel claimed, was sending negative messages and was not in favor of AgustaWestland, to be the partner in the deal. He also claimed that Russia’s deal was on the behalf of government enterprise as Russians were dealing with the Indian Government for a long time and didn’t require any integrity pact or bid bond.
The details of bribes in a Defence contract is listed for the first time in #Agusta verdict, a note handwritten by #ChristianMichel . Michel family involved in several deals @NewsX pic.twitter.com/bIwNVMmtyt
— Sree Iyer (@SreeIyer1) December 20, 2018
In his fax to Saponaro, Michel claimed that the defense ministry at that time was on the same side with the finance ministry. He told Saponaro through the fax that the then finance secretary had not discussed the matter with the finance minister and tried to stop the file from going to the CCS for further approval.
Further, according to Michel, a meeting had to take place between the then finance and the defense ministers to consider AgustaWestland as a partner in the deal.
CBI officials have further said that Michel had given vague answers when asked about the fax during his questioning in the 14 days remand period. The revelations point to the magnitude of influence Michel enjoyed in the UPA government. The very top brass of the then government seems to be indulged in unfair practices to get Michel a deal.