CBI Wants Me to Fulfil Its Agenda of Damaging Oppn Party, Says AgustaWestland 'Middleman'
Michel said when he denied having any political affiliations, he was told that he would be brought to India and 'I won’t like Indian jails'.
New Delhi: Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal, has claimed that he is “paying the price” for his father’s “very deep political relationship in India”.
In an interview to CNN News18, Michel — who is accused of handling and routing over 60 million euros for AgustaWestland kickbacks — said there was a “very good chance” of him being extradited to India. “They will go through the due process here. The result will probably be out in the next six months,” he said.
Michel, while admitting that there were two chains of money transfer for the deal, denied that he was the route through which money was sent to political beneficiaries.
“It is correct that there are two chains but my chain has been forensically audited. My accounts have been checked many, many years ago. Where the money went, what it was used for… The other chain has asked for a plea bargain... They have avoided interrogation... They have never been brought to book for their activities…My accounts have been audited… That is the difference between the two chains,” he said.
Expressing his love for India, Michel said given a chance, he would like to visit the country every weekend. “Let me make it clear that there is no evidence of me paying money to any politician or having contacts with any political party. My father had a political relationship in India, a very deep relationship in India, and I am paying the price for that. Just because he had a relationship, doesn't mean I do too,” he said.
The British national said till he met Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials, he felt it was weak defence to plead that one was being “politically targeted”.
“It has always been a weak defence to say that you are being politically targeted. I have always avoided saying this. This defence was unreasonable till I met the CBI in person and found out their agenda was to damage the opposition party and they wanted me to follow the agenda too,” he said.
Describing his meeting with the CBI, Michel said, “There were three meetings. The first was just beating around the bush. They were showing me files that I had already seen in Italy several times.
“The second focused on key issues; the budget sheet was discussed. I never wrote this budget sheet and had no idea about it,” he said.
When questioned about the initials ‘AP’ on a document, Michel said he never wrote any such note. Referring to allegations that the initials stood for senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, he said it seemed that someone was trying to frame Patel.
“I don't have any idea what was in the man’s mind when he wrote it. If he wrote it to make trouble, then he tried to think of Ahmed Patel. I have no idea if he is involved or not but certainly, it has got nothing to do with me,” he said.
In 2016, Italian judge Marco Maria Maiga of the Milan Court of Appeals, who delivered the verdict in the bribery case, had told NDTV that a note from a middleman listing “AP” as the intended recipient of a bribe was authentic.
Michel also rubbished rumours that a private individual was involved in trying to persuade him to return to India. He said the individual was brought by UAE’s foreign ministry officials, representatives of the CID, UAE police and Interpol members.
He said when he denied having any political affiliations, he was told that he would be brought to India and “I won’t like Indian jails”.
“He [official] said if I say who these people are, all cases against me will be dropped. I will be made a witness and not an accused, will not be brought to India and will have my life back. That was the deal which happened in the final meeting at around 10.30 in the evening. So I said that I need some time to think over and give the best statement I can. But he understood that I cannot make such a statement as it is not true. It never happened,” he said.
“I was told that if I don’t agree, I will be sent to jail and three days later, I was arrested,” he said, adding that the last meeting with the CBI was “absolutely political” as the agency said ‘this is what we want…rest is irrelevant’.”
Michel said if the Indian agencies were able to extradite him, he would stick to the line of defence he gave in Italy. He reiterated that there was no evidence but since the “Indian system takes too long to come to an acceptable result”, he was concerned about the influence on the judiciary in Dubai and the possibility of a fair trial.
The alleged scam relates to the purchase of 12 VVIP choppers for Rs 3,600 crore for use by top leaders, including the Prime Minister and President. The deal with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland was cancelled in January 2014 over allegations that the firm paid kickbacks of Rs 423 crore to secure the deal.
India has been trying to secure Michel’s extradition for the past one year for his role in the alleged scam, with his lawyer saying that the British national was not involved in any bribery.
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