Days after the Enforcement Directorate informed a court that the alleged middleman in the VVIP chopper deal case, Christian Michel, named "Mrs Gandhi" and the "son of the Italian Lady", BJP chief Amit Shah has launched a piercing attack on the Gandhis, alleging a "time-tested and deep friendship" between them and the accused. In a series of tweets, Mr Shah also said that the alleged middleman passed on the details of his questioning on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to his lawyer, Aljo K Joseph, who was expelled from the Congress after he appeared as a counsel for Michel.
"Trails of the AgustaWestland Case...the SOS of Christian Michel. Does anyone know why Christian Michel passed on the details of questioning on Mrs. Gandhi to his Lawyer? Did he want them to be passed on to Mrs. Gandhi herself? Why?" Mr Shah said in a series of tweets.
Christian Michel, 54 , was extradited to India from Dubai earlier this month. He is one of the three alleged middlemen being investigated in Rs. 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam for allegedly organising bribes for Indian politicians and bureaucrats to push for the AgustaWestland deal, involving 12 luxury choppers, during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, the central agency that investigates and prosecutes economic offenses.
The investigating agency did not specify the context used by Michel as he named "Mrs Gandhi" and the "son of the Italian Lady"-- apparent references to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi.
"Michel's lawyer has admitted that the paper was indeed passed on to him. He thought that it was a list of medicines, which could have been transparently given in any case. We have heard of Zandu Balm and Tiger Balm but what is this 'Family Balm' that every middleman wants?" he tweeted.
Amit Shah alleged that the lawyer acts as a conduit between Christian Michel and Mrs Gandhi. "In any case, what must be told again and again is the Congress background of Michel's lawyer. The so called expulsion remains a SHAM. He remains the conduit between Michel and Mrs. Gandhi!" he has written."
"In national interest, Michel's lawyer must tell us about the existence of documents of 2008, which make a reference to Mrs. Gandhi. Evidently, the friendship between Michel and one family in India is time tested and deep," he said.
The government had cancelled the contract with AgustaWestland in 2014 over allegations that it paid kickbacks in India.The CBI alleged there was an estimated loss of 398.21 million Euros (about Rs. 2,666 crore) in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million Euros.
The Congress and the BJP have been engaged in an all-out war against each other, trading charges of corruption. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been trying to push the BJP to the corner over the Rafale jet deal, which, he says, was mired in corruption and crony capitalism. He has alleged that the price of the deal was inflated, and the offset contract was wrongly given to a private company.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, has been attacking the Nehru-Gandhi legacy, alleging the family gave preference to its own development over the progress of the country.
However, the BJP got a fresh issue to attack the Congress after the probe agency's deposition in the court. A battery of senior BJP leaders launched a blistering attack on the Congress top leadership. "The story of loot of public money is coming out. Everything went to one family," Union minister Prakash Javadekar alleged.
Former defence minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony today come out in defence of the party leadership, saying Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never interfered in any defence deals. "Government, BJP misusing agencies to manufacture lies. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never interfered in defence deal," he said.