While questioning Christian Michel in Dubai, Rosemary Patrizi tells Ashis Ray, Indian investigators made him an offer -- that if he named a member of the Gandhi family as having received kickbacks, they would not pursue him as an accused.
Rosemary Patrizi, the Italy-based lawyer of British arms dealer Christian Michel, a suspect in the AgustaWestland VIP chopper scam -- has assured the enforcement directorate she would cooperate with the investigation only if her client is granted bail.
In an e-mail sent to Naresh Malik of the ED on January 14, Patrizi said: 'I'm trying to talk to my client. Until now, he was unable to make phone calls, and today he was authorised 15 minutes a week. I do not know when he will contact me.'
'In any case, I agree to cooperate with the investigations. My only condition is that my client goes out on bail.'
The next hearing on the case is scheduled for February 26 at New Delhi's Patiala House courts.
The investigators' request to Patrizi is puzzling as she is likely to provide material to substantiate Michel's innocence.
"They want his bank accounts statements. I gave some of those. I gave them the audit made by the prosecutor in Italy," says Patrizi.
Patrizi also shared the findings of the Milan court of appeal. "That was not enough. They didn't like it because there's nothing against Christian Michel."
She accepted Michel, a consultant to AgustaWestland UK (manufacturers of the choppers, and now a subsidiary of the Italian firm Finmeccanica), was involved in the helicopter deal, but asserted this was "in a legitimate manner".
She referred to the judgment of the Milan court, which cleared him of wrongdoing.
An English translation of the verdict in Italy described the charge against Michel as 'an accusatory hypothesis'. It continued: 'Therefore, it must immediately be pointed out that the investigation did not give any role ascribable to Michel in the phase concerning the determination of operational requirements or any contact (direct or indirect) with the (Air) Marshal (S P) Tyagi or with the Tyagi brothers.'
The former air chief is accused of money laundering, which he denies and has been granted bail.
The Milan court also did not take cognisance of initials scribbled in a diary found in another Finmeccanica middleman, Switzerland-based Guido Haschke's belongings, allegedly dictated by Michel.
One of the initials were 'AP', which accusers immediately interpreted as referring to Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi's erstwhile political secretary. The court dismissed the exhibit as nothing but an irrelevent piece of paper.
Indian investigators found the Milan court ruling to be 'factually incorrect'.
Patrizi revealed that by "cooperation", the ED meant Michel should concede he had committed a crime. She maintained since his extradition to India, Michel's interrogators in Delhi have told him: 'If you want to be a witness, you confess. If you want to be an accused, you don't confess.'
In reply, she claimed, Michel responded: 'I have nothing to confess.'
She reiterated that while questioning Michel in Dubai, Indian investigators made him an offer that if he named a member of the Congress's Gandhi family as having received kickbacks, they would not pursue him as an accused.
Michel refused to comply. The ED or the CBI has not commented on this.
Interestingly, Patrizi revealed Michel's extradition to India was delayed by more than three years, because Indian authorities adopted an unproductive heavy-handed path to obtain this.
India, she went on to say, approached the matter in 2015 through an Interpol red corner notice, which the UAE ignored.
The pace of the process quickened, she said, when India changed tactics by utilising the extradition treaty between the two nations (which came into force in 2013, under the Manmohan Singh government).
If true, then the capture of Michel was more a victory for Indian diplomats than law enforcement or security establishments.
She further narrated that UAE officials urged Michel to leave their territory, and even returned his passport to enable him to do so. But he refused to budge, and the concerned court had no choice but to honour the extradition treaty with India.
'The court decided the possibility of extraditing Christian James Michel to the competent authorities in the Republic of India,' the order decreed. It did not recognise the conclusion of the Milan court, because it was not served on it through diplomatic channels.
It also observed the Milan court's pronouncement essentially dealt with the acquittal of the primary accused in Italy, namely Orsi Giuseppe and Bruno Spagnolini.
Patrizi, meanwhile, vehemently contradicted a recent report in the UK's Sunday Telegraph -- which a section of the Indian press picked up -- that India allegedly handing back Princess Latifa, a Dubai royal, who had rebelled and escaped from her country, to her family prompted the UAE government to release Michel to Indian authorities as a quid pro quo.
It was the extradition treaty that clinched it, she insisted.