Chirstian Michel, the alleged middleman in the multi-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal has finally surfaced. In an interview to ‘TV Today’ news channel in Abu Dhabi, Michel has claimed that he has never met Congress President Sonia Gandhi or former PM Manmohan Singh or former Defence Minister AK Antony to push for the purchase of VVIP choppers.
“No, never… I have never met any of these,” was the prompt reply of Michel when he was asked about his meeting with Congress leaders.
In the interview Michel sought to clear his name from the kickbacks scam claiming that he had “once” shaken hands with the then IAF Chief S P Tyagi in Delhi but “avoided him” for his links with
Italian businessman Guido Haschke and another middleman.
“I probably met him (S P Tyagi) in Gymkhana club and I think I shook his hand there. But because of his association with Haschke I really avoided him,” Michel said.
He also said that BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has not lied about the deal but it seems he has been misled.
“He has authenticated (documents) what was given in the CAG report. The CAG report was prepared in great hurry as the deal was always blowing away…They (CAG) are not aviation experts and they are bureaucrats asked to put together document way beyond their expertise. So he was misled by his own documentation,” he said.
Earlier, Michel’s lawyer Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos had said that he was ready to come to India and face investigators provided he gets an assurance he will not be arrested.
Michel is one of three alleged middlemen who is suspected to have brokered the VVIP chopper deal in favour of UK-based AgustaWestland.
Both Central Bureau of Investigation and ED have notified Michel under the Interpol Red Corner Notice.
Both CBI and ED have questioned Tyagi in connection with the deal. The CBI case was registered back in 2013.
It is alleged that a bribe of Rs 120 crore was paid in clinching the deal for AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica.
In the ongoing Parliament Session, the chopper deal has been the prime reason for a political slugfest between BJP and Congress. Just two days ago, PM Narendra Modi had alleged in an election rally Tamil Nadu, that Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi was a beneficiary of the deal. The comment riled the Congress top brass and they demanded an apology from the PM in the Upper House of the Parliament on Tuesday.
(With inputs from PTI)