Christian Michel, extradited “unconditionally” by UAE on Tuesday, “aggressively” denied paying bribes to any UPA leader or defence ministry official as suggested in his purported handwritten notes, but admitted to taking money from AgustaWestland, which he said was a “consultancy” fee. Officials familiar with his interrogation said Michel had not disclosed names of any “beneficiaries” of bribe.
Claiming he was “dyslexic”, Michel told CBI officers he couldn’t write and the ‘bribery’ notes listing alleged payments to politicians and bureaucrats were penned by Guido Haschke, another European middleman.
The notes had described Sonia Gandhi as the “driving force behind the VIP (choppers)”. Michel further said in the notes that besides Sonia, Peter Hulet (then-India region sales head of AgustaWestland) should ‘target’ then-PM Manmohan Singh, then-defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.
A second note, titled ‘budget expenditure items’ and dictated to Haschke in 2008, mentioned acronyms of individuals who were to be allegedly paid bribes totalling 30 million euros. The mentions included ‘FAM’ and ‘AP’, both mentioned under a head captioned ‘POL’ which Italian investigators interpreted as referring to politicians. Michel accused Haschke of framing him in these notes.
A CBI officer said Michel was putting the entire onus of the alleged bribery on Haschke to “save himself and politicians/individuals in India with whom he has links”.
“He knows everything and reacts to our questions according to his wish. When he knows we have documents related to a certain transaction, he gets a little aggressive,” the officer said.
According to the CBI chargesheet, Michel had signed two agreements with AgustaWestland — one for 42 million euros (which he later reduced to 30 million euros) and the second for 28 million euros — to lobby with the “family”. Family here was a reference to former IAF chief S P Tyagi and his cousins.
“Michel claims these were consultancy contracts and there was nothing wrong in it. But he is not able to explain what he did with the rest of the money after deducting his 5% commission,” the CBI officer said. When confronted with documents showing that after receiving 42 million euros from AgustaWestland, he transferred the money to other companies and individuals