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Christian Michel may prove to be missing link in AgustaWestland money trail

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Middleman in the deal Christian may prove to be the missing link in the money trail in the alleged multi-crore scam being probed by the

A proposal for the Rs 3,600 crore helicopter deal to ferry VVIPs was initiated in 1999 to find an alternative to the IAF flying horses of Soviet era --

Several factors such as the inability of the choppers to operate at night, in adverse weather, and safely at places in elevation beyond 2000 metres besides their technical life getting over were primary reasons that the IAF decided to replace its eight helicopters used for ferrying VVIPs like the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice and the Defence Minister.

The then NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee floated a global Request for Proposal in March 2002 for acquisition of 12 helicopters for VVIP duties to which four companies responded.

Three were shortlisted by the and subjected to flying tests but AgustaWestland's contender EH101 was not certified to fly at 6000 m and it did not participate in the evaluation.

After flight evaluation, EC-225 of Eurocopter, was found suitable for acquisition by the government.

A meeting took place under the aegis of the to Vajpayee on November 19, 2003 where it was decided that since VVIPs rarely travel at 6000 m height, the ceiling should be reduced to 4500 m which could avoid single vendor problem and give more alternatives to choose from.

The also wrote a stern letter to the on December 22, 2003 that the PMO and the prime minister's guarding force SPG were not consulted before setting mandatory parameters for selecting the VVIP choppers.

This reduction in ceiling became the primary allegation in the corruption case in the helicopters' deal which was signed by the led in 2010.

The deliberated upon and incorporated the changes suggested by the It floated another proposal in which three companies namely Sikorsky, USA AgustaWestland, UK and Rosoboronexport, responded to the RFP.

The Russian company was ruled out over the issue of earnest money leaving only and in the race.

They were subjected to flight tests in the US and the UK respectively and choppers were selected for the deal.

The has alleged that the then SP played a role in recommending the reduction in operational ceiling of the helicopters from 6000 m to 4500 m which brought AgustaWestland in the race.

It has alleged that the IAF was strongly opposed to changes but when became the chief, he recommended these.

This, according to the agency, was allegedly done at the behest of and AgustaWestland's top executives who engaged the services of three middlemen-- Michel, and who allegedly paid bribes to and his cousins Rajiv, and

The agency has alleged that firms of Michel received about 42.27 million Euros, approximately seven per cent from the companies to swing the Rs 3600 crore deal in their favour.

The bribes were allegedly routed through companies of Michel and in the form of multiple contracts through layered transactions to camouflage them.

The money trail, however, is believed to be incomplete and the will need statements and questioning of Michel to fill the gaps to link Tyagi with payments from and AgustaWestland, officials said.

Michel on his part has alleged that the CBI team wants him to take names of family, a claim which had been refuted by the agency.

The CBI had filed its charge sheet in September last year naming Tyagi, of the to face corruption charges, and his cousins, Indian middlemen and companies accused.

Along with them, five foreigners -- the then chief and AgustaWestland's and middlemen Michel, Haschke and Gerosa were also named.

After the case was registered in 2012, Michel had escaped from and did not join investigation, CBI's said.

A non-bailable warrant was issued by a special followed by an Red Corner Notice in 2015 which led to his arrest in February 2017 in

After a court cleared his extradition rejecting all his contentions, the gave its nod to his extradition after which he was brought to by a team of CBI led by Sai Manohar, who was part of the SIT once led by

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, December 05 2018. 16:01 IST