- It is all baseless, ridiculous and an election gimmick: Ahmed Patel
- Chargesheet filed against alleged middleman in VVIP chopper deal case
- Delhi court issues notice to Enforcement Directorate on alleged leaks
A day after it was revealed that a charge-sheet in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case against Christian Michel names senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, the alleged middleman told a Delhi court that he had not named anyone in his questioning by the Enforcement Directorate.
Christian Michel alleged the charge-sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate on Thursday was leaked to the media even before the court took note of it and before a copy was served to the accused.
Delhi's Patiala House Court has asked the probe agency to reply by tomorrow how the charge sheet was leaked to the media.
"Michel has not named anyone in his statement before the agency which is being leaked to media. This is only to make the matter sensational and prejudice the case against my client," his counsel, Aljo K Joseph said.
The supplementary charge-sheet, which has 52 pages, names Ahmed Patel and one "Mrs Gandhi" as entries in a diary seized by investigators.
"It is all baseless, ridiculous and an election gimmick," Ahmed Patel told NDTV on the charges, adding, "I have faith in the judiciary".
The case involves a 3,600-crore contract for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters to be used by top Indian leaders like the President, Prime Minister, former PMs and other VIPs. The deal with Italy-based helicopter-maker AgustaWestland was signed by the previous Manmohan Singh government in 2007.
Christian Michel, a British national extradited from Dubai in December, is one of the three middlemen being investigated over charges of organising bribes to push the deal with decision-makers in India. The Enforcement Directorate said in its document that Christian Michel had said during his questioning 'AP' stands for Ahmed Patel and 'Fam' stands for Family in the diary.
The code words relate to alleged kickbacks of 30 million euros paid to Air Force officials, bureaucrats, defence ministry officials and "top political leaders of the ruling party" at the time, says the charge-sheet. The payments were routed through a "complex structure" and withdrawn in cash through the "hawala" route, the Enforcement Directorate alleges.
The Enforcement Directorate lists a series of "dispatches" between February 2008 and October 2009 by Christian Michel, including one that mentioned "Mrs Gandhi" as the "driving force" behind the chopper deal.
One dispatch, according to the charge-sheet, says "A) Meeting at the beginning of the week with regards to the Italian Lady's son... The gentleman confirmed that the son will be next Prime Minister and his power in the party is growing day by day. Hence, the Finance Minister's extreme anxiety at the son's phenomenal rise."
The charge-sheet alleges that Christian Michel used senior Congress leaders to put pressure on then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The investigators refer to a letter dated August 28, 2009, allegedly written by Michel to one Giuseppe Orsi. Orsi is the former chief of Finmeccania (now Leonardo), the parent company of AgustaWestland.
The supplementary charge-sheet also names Christian Michel's business partner David Syms and two companies Global Services FZE, UAE, and Global Trade & Commerce Ltd, apart from the 38 previously named as accused in the case.
The charge-sheet comes just days before the national election, for which campaigning by political parties is at its peak. The Congress alleges that the chopper investigation is an attempt to target its top leaders in election season, mainly to deflect attention from the Rafale deal controversy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP referred to the charge-sheet today and said the Congress must answer.
The BJP says the case means "serious trouble" for the "first family" of Congress, referring to its chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi.