Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal, on Wednesday said that he has never met Congress president Sonia Gandhi or the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to push for the purchase of VVIP choppers.
“No, never,” was the prompt reply of Michel when he was asked whether he had ever met Gandhi, Singh or the then Defence Minister A K Antony for pushing the deal.
“I have never met any of these,” he said in an interview to ‘TV Today’ news channel in Abu Dhabi.
Michel sought to clear his name from the kickbacks scam claiming that he had “once” shaken hands with the then Indian Air Force Chief S P Tyagi in Delhi but “avoided him” for his links with Italian businessman Guido Haschke and another middleman.
“I probably met him (S P Tyagi) in Gymkhana club and I think I shook his hand there. But because of his association with Haschke I really avoided him,” he said.
He also said that Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy has not lied about the deal but it seems he has been misled.
“He has authenticated (documents) what was given in the Comptroller Auditor General report. The CAG report was prepared in great hurry as the deal was always blowing away.
“They (CAG) are not aviation experts and they are bureaucrats asked to put together document way beyond their expertise. So he was misled by his own documentation,” he said.
Michel said he would like to bring his driver Narayan Bahadur, who according to investigating agencies has been in touch with him till recently, to Dubai.
“He (Bahadur) is my driver. I know him. He is my dear friend. I hope and have full intention to keep him rest of my life. He has been with me for years and years. I am going to bring him to Dubai and look after him,” Michel said.
The Enforcement Directorate has reportedly found that Bahadur was getting payments through overseas wire service from Michel.
To a question whether the money being sent to Bahadur was for somebody else, he said that was “for him”.
Earlier, Michel’s lawyer Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos had said that he was ready to come to India and face investigators provided he gets an assurance he will not be arrested.
Michel is one of three alleged middlemen whom the Indian investigating agencies suspect to have brokered the VVIP chopper deal in favour of UK-based AgustaWestland.
Both Central Bureau of Investigation and ED have notified Michel under the Interpol Red Corner Notice.
The controversial deal and the alleged bribes to the tune of Rs 120 crore paid in clinching it for AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, has triggered a political slugfest between BJP and Congress.
CBI and ED have also questioned Tyagi in connection with the deal. CBI had in 2013 registered a case in connection with alleged bribes paid by the firm to Indians to clinch the deal.