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AgustaWestland middleman claims CBI would have let him walk free if he implicated Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel

On Tuesday, Christian Michel, a suspected middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, claimed he was asked to implicate UPA leaders Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel.

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AgustaWestland middleman claims CBI would have let him walk free if he implicated Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel
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On Tuesday, Christian Michel, a suspected middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, claimed he was asked to implicate UPA leaders Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel.

He claimed he was asked to specify in writing that 'Family' and 'AP' stood for the Gandhi family and the Rajya Sabha MP.

Michel told India Today that he would have been allowed to walk free had he done so and claimed he could obtain CCTV footage to prove that he met CBI officials.

He said: “"[The] CBI is lying; I have at least six witness to prove that we had three meetings," he said.

The CBI had earlier claimed it hadn’t questioned Christian Michel in UAE.

When asked about the claims of Michel's lawyer that he was being pressured by the Indian and UAE authorities to give a confession and name Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in his statement, the CBI refuted the allegation, saying its team has not examined him in the UAE, where he was taken into custody last year.

"Christian Michel was arrested in February 2017 by the UAE authorities. He was not arrested this year as claimed by his defence lawyer. CBI team has neither examined the fugitive in the UAE nor influenced him to extract confession. The extradition proceedings against the fugitive is going on in the UAE and request for extradition is being followed up," CBI Spokesperson Abhishek Dayal had told PTI.

The CBI filed charge sheet in the matter in September last year, naming former IAF Chief S P Tyagi as one of the accused.

Besides him, the agency has also chargesheeted retired Air Marshal JS Gujral along with eight others, including five foreign nationals. Michel is one of the three foreign country-based middleman chargesheeted in the matter.

The agency has alleged that there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (approximately Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million.

The CBI had earlier alleged that during his tenure as air force chief, Tyagi and, with his approval, the Air Force conceded to reduce the mandatory service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres.

The Air Force was vehemently opposing the service ceiling reduction on the grounds of security constraints and other related reasons.

It has claimed that reduction of the service ceiling, or the maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally, allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to come into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

The CBI has alleged that the AgustaWestland managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine and eventually succeeded in getting the contract for supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from the Defence Ministry mainly due to softening of the IAF on service ceiling after S P Tyagi took over as its chief.

 

On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks of Rs 423 crore paid by it to secure the deal.

The accused named in the charge sheet include Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa, S P Tyagi, his cousins Rajiv Tyagi and Sanjeev Tyagi, advocate Gautam Khaitan and his wife Ritu Khaitan, Shivani Saxena and her husband Rajeev Saxena, both directors of two Dubai-based firms, Besides, the final report also named various Indian and foreign firms, including Finmeccanica SPA, AgustaWestland, Aeromatrix Info Solution Ltd, Windsor Group Holdings, Ismax International Ltd, Cricklewood Ltd, Long Lasting Ltd, Matrix Holding Pvt Ltd, UHY Saxena, Dubai Interstellar Technologies Ltd, O P Khaitan and Co, International Mediterranean Consulting, Tunisia, Infotech Design Systems Gordian Services.

 

 

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