New Delhi: Referring to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) statement that alleged middleman, Christian Michel, had named ‘Mrs Gandhi’ and the ‘son of an Italian lady’ during the interrogation, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Anurag Thakur on Sunday launched an indirect attack on the former Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He said that it is very unfortunate even after India electing her as MP many times, she is still an ‘Italian lady’ for the world.
Talking to a news agency, BJP leader said, “Doesn’t matter whether Christian Michel says it or not, they know who is ‘Italian lady,’who is ‘Italian lady’s son’&who is ‘Mrs Gandhi.’ It’s unfortunate that even after India electing her as an MP many times, she is still an ‘Italian lady’ for the world.”
Last year on December 29, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) told Delhi’s Patiala House Court that Michel, had named ‘Mrs Gandhi’ while in custody. However, it is not clear in what reference has Gandhi been named. “Christian Michel has also spoken about “the son of the Italian lady” and how he is going to become the “next prime minister of the country,” the Enforcement Directorate lawyer had informed the court.
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. However, he had denied the charges.
“We need to decipher who is this ‘big man’ referred to as ‘R’ is in the communication between Christian Michel and other people. We need to confront Michel with other people to decipher this,” the Enforcement Directorate had further told the court. The probe agency had added that Christian Michel has identified how HAL was removed from the deal and the deal was offered to Tata instead.
The ED had also sought a ban on his lawyer’s access to him. Following this, the court had asked Christian Michel’s lawyers to maintain a distance while meeting him.
Meanwhile, the Congress party had alleged that Michel is being forced by the Narendra Modi-led government to name a ‘particular family’.
Notably, Michel was taken into custody by the ED over money laundering charges in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, after he was extradited from the UAE earlier this month. He was produced in Delhi’s Patiala House Court after seven days in the probe agency’s custody.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.
The money was nothing but “kickbacks” paid by the firm to execute the 12 helicopter deal in favour of the firm in “guise of” genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, according to the charge sheet.
The ED investigation found that remittances made by Michel through his Dubai-based firm Global Services to a media firm he floated in Delhi, along with two Indians, were made from the funds which he got from AgustaWestland through “criminal activity” and corruption being done in the chopper deal that led to the subsequent generation of proceeds of crime.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italy-based Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over an alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.
The CBI on September 1, 2017, had filed a charge sheet in the case in which Michel was named as one of the accused.
Former IAF Chief SP Tyagi (73) was also charge-sheeted by the CBI in a Delhi Court along with nine others in connection with a bribery case in the VVIP chopper deal. He is the first chief of the Indian Air Force to be charge-sheeted in corruption or a criminal case by the CBI and he has denied all charges against him.