New Delhi: A new angle has now been uncovered in the AgustaWestland chopper deal. CNN-IBN has accessed French court documents which reveal that Christian Michel, the man accused of taking 60 per cent of kickbacks in the AgustaWestland 101 helicopter deal, was involved in earlier defence deals in India too.
The court documents relate to a French court judgement delivered in 2002, where Michel himself admitted to being the middleman for Dassault, which makes military jets. Michel claimed he lobbied in India for Dassault for the Rs 2,500 crore Mirage fighter deal. The court judgement said that Michel was paid one lakh euros by Dassault for this deal.
Middlemen are banned in defence deals in India. Dassault's Rafale fighter was recently picked for the $10.4 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal under which India will buy 126 jets.
The court judgement further reveals that Michel admitted to working under a pseudonym 'David Syms'; that Michel had approached the court for non-payment of his dues from Dassault for the Mirage deal and that Dassault had paid Michel the sum of one lakh euros as services rendered. The court verdict, however, went against Michel.
The big questions:
- Why didn't the government blacklist Dassault as it used middleman for Mirage deal?
- If Christian Michel himself admitted in a French court to be the middleman for Dassault, Why was this fact ignored by the Defence Ministry during the MMRCA deal?
- Should Dassault have been considered at all for the MMRCA deal if Dassault was using middlemen?
- Will Defence Minister AK Antony reorder a probe into awarding of contract to Dassault Rafale for MMRCA?
The UPA government's factsheet on AgustaWestland chopper deal:
1. In August 1999, the IAF which is responsible for carrying out VVIP communication task, proposed the replacement of Mi-8 VIP helicopters due to severe operational constraints, such as, inability of Mi-8 to operate at night and in adverse weather, inability to operate safely at places in elevation beyond 2000 meters etc. IAF felt the need for the replacement of Mi-8 helicopters as they were completing their total technical life.
2. A global RFP was issued in March 2002 to which 4 vendors responded. The Technical Evaluation Committee shortlisted 3 helicopters and accordingly flight evaluations were conducted. Since, EH-101 of M/s. AgustaWestland was not certified for an altitude of 6000 meters, it did not participate in the flight evaluation. The Russian helicopter Mi-172 could not comply with 7 mandatory Operational Requirements (ORs). After flight evaluation, EC-225 of M/s. Eurocopter, France was found suitable for acquisition.
3. On November 19, 2003 a meeting was taken by Principal Secretary to PM on this subject. In the meeting, Principal Secretary observed that his main concern was that the framing of the mandatory requirements has led us effectively into a single vendor situation. It was also noted that PM and President have rarely made visits to places involving flying at an altitude beyond 4500 meters. In the meeting it was decided to make the mandatory requirement for operational altitude 4500 meters. The higher flying ceiling of 6000 meters, and a cabinet height of 1.8 meters could be made desirable operational requirements. It was observed that with these revisions, several helicopters which otherwise met all requirements but had been rejected due to the altitude restriction, would now come into the reckoning.