The Congress and especially, the Gandhi family have been heading towards imminent trouble in the AgustaWestland chopper case. The trouble looming large seems to have gotten one step closer to reality with AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel saying he had access to internal meetings of the UPA government. He has also, according to Times Now, identified ‘AP’ as Ahmed Patel and ‘Fam’ as Family.
Times Now reports that Christian Michel has identified the notings in his diary and has confirmed that AP stands for senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, the then-political secretary of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and ‘Fam’ stands for the “Family”. However, he has said that he had no dealings with either.
He has also reportedly distanced himself from the note saying that the diary notings were not penned by him but by Guido Haschke, another suspected middleman.
Christian Michel is a middleman in the VVIP chopper deal between AgustaWestland and the Indian Air Force (IAF). Michel is one of the three middlemen in the deal was extradited to India from Dubai earlier.
On 1 January 2014, India cancelled the contract to purchase 12 VVIP choppers which were meant to ferry the President, Prime Minister and other VVIPs for the IAF after the CEO of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi was arrested by Italian authorities. Christian Michel is suspected to have received kickbacks to the tune of Rs. 423 crores.
The authorities have long suspected that Christian Michel had unbridled access to the then UPA government. These suspicions did not come without reasons considering Economic Time reported that a letter written by Michel back in 2009 confirmed the extent of his access within the UPA government.
In this letter written by Michel to Giuseppe Orsi, he says that he had unbridled access to the UPA cabinet meetings and the Cabinet Committee for Security. He also says that he had access to conversations as classified as conversations between the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Hillary Clinton. He also claimed that he had the access to “pressurise” the PM through Congress party “elites”. Whether these elites were Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, or others, he doesn’t confirm.
According to the letter accessed by ET, Michel had prior knowledge of the CCS meeting schedules months in advance and had also confirmed to Orsi when the AgustaWestland chopper deal would be finalised.
Michel, in this letter, wrote to Orsi about one of the conversations between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and PM Manmohan Singh where Clinton had expressed reservations about the deal and said that the choppers were so extravagant that even the USA had cancelled the deal. Michel said that Manmohan Singh was so desperate to maintain good relations with the USA, that he agreed to “look into it”.
Referring to a CCS meeting in July 2009, Michel wrote:
“We and the team (user, bureaucrat and key political elements) expected it to clear without a problem”, however, he adds much to their “nightmare”, the PM invited questions from all ministers asking them to raise them to the Defence Ministry which will be later routed back to the CCS. “This statement threw us to the wolves. Every minister, every lobby, group, Russian/American/French had questions. The finance minister saw his chance to flex muscles and take on the Defence Minister where there is a power struggle”, Michel wrote. Our project was on the edge of a cliff, he added after questions started pouring in. He added “we spent the whole of August regrouping, realigning and preparing our strategy for resubmission to the CCS. Our CCS note is huge. The new Defence Secretary has got brains… The Joint Secretary learnt his lesson. The National Security Advisor saw the PM at 4 pm yesterday”.
He also wrote that the Defence Minister is incompetent and “100% behind us”.
It is extremely evident from these revelations that Christian Michel had unprecedented access to all confidential meetings of the Congress government, including conversations with the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and sensitive CCS meetings.
With Michel naming Ahmen Patel and “family”, one wonders how long it would be before he backtracks his current statement that he had “no dealing with either AP or Fam” and spill the beans. Either way, the trouble seems to have only begun for the Congress and the Gandhi family.
Earlier it was revealed that Michel had travelled to India 300 times between 1996 and 2012. His visits stopped only after Orsi was arrested by Italian sleuths. Simultaneously, AgustaWestland’s internal audit had confirmed that Christian Michel had made dubious payments of Rs. 276 crores.