On Wednesday, the BJP launched a blistering attack on Sonia Gandhi-led Congress party over its involvement in the high-profile AgustaWestland scam to allege that the Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was expected to receive Rs 700 crore if the deal had gone through.
Addressing a press conference, senior BJP leader and national spokesperson Rajyavardhan Rathore stated that an investigation started into the AgustaWestland by the Italy court in November 2012 had highlighted the irregularities in the VVIP chopper deal. Citing Christian Michel’s revelation, Rathore said the notes of Agusta scam accused named senior Congress leaders and Sonia Gandhi’s involvement in the multi-crore scam.
Attacking the Congress over its involvement in the corruption cases, Rathore said, “Whenever the scams in defence deals surfaces, the name of Congress also comes up. Jeep scam, Tatra truck scam, Bofors scam and now AgustaWestland scam, all of these scams have happened under Congress rule. Senior party members ie Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi should give clarification and respond on why the name of senior party leaders have appeared in this scam.”
Referring to the deposition by key-accused Christian Michel in which he had mentioned about a meeting with an ‘Italian lady’s son who is next in line to become the Prime Minister’, Rathore alleged that the first family of the Congress party had the direct role in the scam.
“In the charge sheet, it has been mentioned conclusively that kickbacks were paid to defence officials, bureaucrats, politicians and all this is based on the documents seized by the Swiss Police. The deposition by Christian Michelle and in the interrogation of another accused – Rajiv Saxena – when all this is connected a lot of things are revealed,” Rathore added.
“In communication by Christian Michelle in 2009, he wrote, ‘We have pressurized by the Prime Minister through the party elite. We had a meeting with an Italian lady’s son who is next in line to become the PM’,” Rajyavardhan Rathore said in a press conference on Wednesday
Taking a dig at Gandhi-scion Rahul Gandhi for his tweets, Rathore demanded that the Rahul Gandhi should also address the nation about his party’s involvement in the AgustaWestland scam.
The press statement by Col Rajyavardhan Rathore came out after one of the main accused Rajiv Saxena had revealed about the involvement of senior Congress leaders like Salman Khurshid, Kamal Nath’s son Bakul Nath and Sonia Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel had appeared in the scam.
Rajiv Saxena names several Congress leaders in the Agustawestland scam
One of the prime accused turned approver in the AgustaWestland scam, Rajiv Saxena, has named key Congress leaders and their relatives over alleged involvement in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam. In his interrogation in connection with the scam, Saxena named senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, Kamal Nath’s son Bakul Nath and Sonia Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel.
Saxena, who was picked up by UAE government security agencies in Dubai and later extradited to India on January 30, 2019, and who later turned approver, was interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate, which attached his assets worth Rs 385 crore. The ED has now approached the apex court to revoke the approver status of Rajiv Saxena for not revealing the complete disclosure of facts in the case.
As per Saxena’s confession to Enforcement Directorate, the kickbacks also entailed the benefits for the political leaders and bureaucrats at the time who played a crucial role in influencing the decision in favour of the Agusta Westland. Some of the payoffs, through direct and indirect means, were routed to India with the help of structures built by him, Saxena has admitted, as per the Indian Express report.
In addition to this, Saxena also cites a critical link with a company named Pristine River Investments. “We(Gupta and myself) received bridge funding through Pristine River Investments, a company managed by John Docherty for Bakul Nath, son of Kamal Nath. Therefore, indirectly funds from Interstellar Technologies and Global Services were used to pay off the loans from Pristine River Investments,” Saxena said.
The AgustaWestland Scam
India had signed a deal in 2010 under the UPA regime to buy 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the service of the Prime Minister, the President and other VVIPs. It is alleged that some politicians and public servants had abused their official positions to reduce the service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6000 metres to 4500 metres to make AgustaWestland eligible for the contract and had awarded the contract for an amount of Euro 556.262 million in 2010. The deal was cancelled in 2013 after the scam was revealed.