Have To Protect Gandhis To Protect Myself, Agusta Middleman Tells NDTV: Full Transcript

Have To Protect Gandhis To Protect Myself, Agusta Middleman Tells NDTV: Full Transcript

In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Christian Michel confirms that he did describe Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in a letter as "the driving force".

DUBAI:  An alleged middleman who India is desperate to question for the corrupt AgustaWestland deal has confirmed to NDTV that in 2008, he did describe Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in a letter as "the driving force" of the decision to acquire new helicopters for use by top politicians when her party was last in power. However, Christian Michel James, who is based in Dubai, also said that he does not personally know either Mrs Gandhi or her son, Rahul, who is the Congress vice-president, and stressed that his written suggestion that they be lobbied by diplomats does not mean bribes were paid to them.  

Following is the full transcript of his interview to NDTV:

NDTV: At the heart of the AgustaWestland chopper scam is the account of one man who's been variously called the middleman and the kingpin by both the courts in Italy, as well as investigative agencies back home in India, whom they believe holds the key to the puzzle about where the money trade ends. We are talking about of course Christian Michel who's now wanted by the Indian investigative agencies, he has offered to cooperate with them on the assurance that he is not arrested if he comes back to India; Indian investigative agencies are saying "that's out of question". Giving his version of events now here in Dubai is Christian Michel himself, I'm joined by my colleague Sudhi Ranjan Sen to take us through the many twists and turns of the case that has literally caused a political earthquake in India.

Mr Michel the fact of the matter is that you have been charged with accepting 44 Million Euros worth of bribes or kickbacks. The court in Italy puts that number at 44 Million Euros; the Indian investigative agencies are looking at a minimum of 30 Million Euros. You have of course proclaimed your innocence but the fact remains what did you get that 44Million Euros for then?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Right, 44 Million Euros is a figure that's arrived in a document discovered in Guido's bag, which he was hiding under his mother's bed. The document has no validation, it has not been authenticated, I only received it when I received my arrest warrant, but they had to bring the evidence with the warrant, otherwise it was kept from me. Once I saw the document I was able to evaluate its authenticity. I called in experts to assist me on this process and I think we have destroyed its authenticity.

NDTV: You've questioned its authenticity, but when I interviewed the judge in Milan, who actually delivered this judgement, he said to me and these were his exact words, he believes that document to be authentic. Now what he meant by that was he can't prove that those payments were made yet, but he says that did write this document. There are of course references to this fact that you have a writing disability, so he wrote it for you, and this actually computed the various kickbacks that were paid off to various people, including the contentious reference AP, that the BJP has suggested means Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary of Sonia Gandhi.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The answer is very simple, the Honourable judge has had no opportunity to evaluate my side of the story, I couldn't travel to Italy to present my side of the story.

NDTV: Why not?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I was going to be arrested and the arrest warrant was issued against me.

NDTV: So then you essentially absconded evading arrest?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: But I had no choice because if I went there I would be arrested and once you are arrested you are not allowed to communicate at all from the jail, so how would I be able to defend myself? It's a catch 22, you go there you can't talk; you don't go there you can't talk. So either way you can't talk. But while this was going on I used my time to bring in the experts to get all the authentication I needed, which I have now done and I'm now ready to defend myself vigorously and prove it. Of course they have to believe what says, he has made a plea bargain, he's their star witness and that is the only piece of evidence they have as him, so if he falls away his credibility is destroyed, they have no case.

NDTV: Before Sudhi comes in, how much money are you willing to accept you received? You are clearly saying that you did not receive 44 million Euros, are you saying that?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Oh yes, I never received it.

NDTV: So how much money did you receive?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I'll tell you what they have done, they have done right, so we need 44 million, so what we'll do, we'll go through all of his accounts and we'll stop when we'll finally bring all of it together and it equals 44 million. So they have to go through 14 years of work I have done for Westland, not AgustaWestland, Westland because Agusta hadn't bought them at the time I was working for them. And then they say right we have got enough money to say that's what he was paid, before the VVIP had even been started.

NDTV: So are you accepting that you got 44 million Euros from Westland over 14 years? Is that number accurate?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Probably over 20 years.

NDTV: 44 million Euros?


NDTV: And how much did you specifically get for the Agusta deal?


NDTV: And you are sticking to that figure?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Oh yes, absolutely.

NDTV: Let's get deeper into it, Sudhi what do you have?

NDTV: My question is that what is the kind of work that you did for AgustaWestland in the AW101 purchase deal and also what are these names? Are these names familiar to you? Gautam Nayar? If I can give you these names, Shashi Bhushan Sharma, Major General SCN Jatar, then JB Subramaniam, Rajyalaxmi and so on? Who are these people? What were they doing?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Some of them were involved in assisting the implementation stage of the contract. Let me say there are no agreements existing, they never were, they don't exist, of any percentage of agreement or any agreement whereby if the deal is done I get any reward. There was no agreement in place until the deal was signed, because to do that it would have been illegal. That would have been an illegal contract.

NDTV: So you say that it was a post-contractual support?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, exactly and it runs up to about 5 pages of work and it includes advice on media; it includes monitoring and understanding political events, changes in government, changes in law, changes in protocol, changes in the DPP, the procurement document, which is huge, but also goes into managing offset. I was engaged in setting up a stimulator centre in Bangalore; I was the one who took care of the TATA Rotorcraft deal, all of these. I had nearly 35 people working for me, some of whom you have named.

NDTV: But Michel, the judgement that came from Milan says that even this post contract service, that the services were vague, the amount of money you had received was disproportionate to the service that you gave, the service was in fact erratic and there is certainly a suggestion in the judgement that these were over-inflated figures and you were basically given money which was a kickback for the work you did not do.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Oh, there's also a part in the judgement that was the first to audit, was that the work was valuable and they couldn't have managed without it, so against every argument there's a counter and if you have the counter then it's for intelligent people like yourself to come up with a decision. But at the moment the only thing that the Italians are pulling out are the negatives.

NDTV: So the contract that you have got is post contractual, but the contract was only the half signed, it did not go through, so why did you get the money?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The contract was half signed; by this what do you mean?

NDTV: 3 helicopters came in, why did you get six, why were you paid all the 6 million, why would you get this?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I wasn't paid in a lump sum. I was paid for the two years as we were going through, we were supposed to go through and get into delivery. There is enormous amount of work involved. I have brought on advisors from training, this is very specific training and it has a very difficult environment.

NDTV: What do you mean by a difficult environment? That's one of the questions I wanted to ask.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: So it's a very large country and you have got enormous variations in temperatures, it can go from 50 degrees down to minus 40 on the same day almost, which requires training and requires certain amount of spares provisioning, which is different from anywhere in the world. I don't know another country, which would be of the same environment.

NDTV: Difficult country or complex country sounds like code for you can't get work done until you grease palms.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, no, no, it's not amusing, it's sad. Why is it so difficult for India to imagine that the deal of this size could be done under the stewardship of men like Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh, Anthony, who are clearly men who don't engage in this.

NDTV: They actually wanted the testing of the choppers thing to be done inside India if eventually it had to be done.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: But if ask you as a non-professional and you would say to me that you also would prefer it to be done in India as well and that's a perfectly reasonable stand, but when you ask the manufacturer who comes up with hundreds of reasons which include delays, the expense, all of which would end up on India's table or you sent a team to their facility where they have everything and the equipment to do the testing it makes sense. They would pursue it and they do this by the way many a times and don't forget flying helicopters is not like flying aircraft.

NDTV: But then AW-101 was not even ready and the testing was done on a different kind of; don't you think it's a bit odd?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Now you are getting into an area, which I wanted to cover. I think you need to go to the manufacturers, all the contenders, there were 3 contenders and ask when you do a trial, what sort of platform which is what we call a aircraft, what sort of platform would you use? They certainly use the 101, so at what point does it stop being an aircraft? Do you have every switch, everything, do you have to have the colour correct or are you allowed to have the type of the aircraft to demonstrate, which will be the of the type to be delivered? I cannot believe, do not believe and I'm sure they demonstrated 101. There are many things in the CAG report, which are wrong.

NDTV: Who do you believe who AP was?  

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I think in his mind, I think I knew exactly what he was doing. I think when he prepared this budget sheet and put it in his backpack, he knew exactly what he was doing. He has named very cleverly, the entire procurement branch of the Ministry of Defence and then stuck in a politician to give his bias.

NDTV: You are saying he has deliberately created trouble for himself?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: How many times has it happened to India?

NDTV: Have you ever met Ahmed Patel?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No never, why would he see someone like me?

NDTV: I was reading today that you visited India a 180 times between 2005 and 2013.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well probably.

NDTV: A 180 times.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Can I explain it?

NDTV: A 180 times?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Okay you came here. It took you a few hours. India is a beautiful country.

NDTV: That's not why you were there...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, no let me explain, if I had a weekend, we finish work here Thursday night, so I can spend Thursday night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in India, going down to Jaipur. If you can afford that lifestyle, you would take it.

NDTV: You were going there as a tourist?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Not tourist, I used to stay there, live there, I had a place there, it was my second home, I must prefer to be in India than UK or Dubai.

NDTV: Which brings me to another question, what was this Exim or this Media Exim Company?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well it was a number of things. I had an idea of promoting Indian music. That was originally why I set it up.

NDTV: And where was the money coming from?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, we tried a couple of things. First of all I have financed a number of properties, which I used, which the CBI knows about and they issued this amount of money worth 6 crores, I think is the figure we are talking and that was used. First of all I tried some jewelry business, which didn't work and the money came back and that's all investigated and looked at.

NDTV: Can I just interrupt you there, because there is an Enforcement Directorate report and I have the bits of it in front of me and it actually says that this company, Media Exim, was meant for jewellery import but that jewellery was never imported, and the Enforcement Directorate concluded that this was the front money that was used as a channel to get the kickbacks that you were receiving. There was no authentic work by a company like Media Exim, and these were shell companies

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, we did some genuine work and then we tried to; which didn't work but that is not the story but in the end what I did with a lot of that money was to help to finance Mr Nandan to buy property which I could use..

NDTV: For what?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: To stay in, it wasn't for kickbacks or bribes, I preferred to stay at my own place than hotels.

NDTV: Which brings me back to another thing I'm going to talk about, the note being fake, but there was another note written to Peter Hullet in 2008, in March.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: That was distributed by my office.

NDTV: For our viewers who would not know the in's and out of this, the note which is typed in 2008 on 15th of March and Peter Hullet says that it's authentic, written from you, speaks of Sonia Gandhi to be the driving force behind this deal and speaks of people who are her key advisors, those advisors include Pranab Mukherjee, who was the then President, they include Ahmed Patel, they include NK Narayan, the security advisors, and 8 and Manmohan Singh also. There is another letter, there is a third document that actually speaks about how Manmohan Singh, the Italian Prime Minister should pick up the phone and call Manmohan Singh to also put pressure for this deal. So we are actually looking at three different documents. We are looking at the 2008 note, we are looking at the letter which speaks of Manmohan Singh giving a call to Italian Prime Minister and we are looking at yes money budget sheets, so the 2008 note....

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Part of my job is to advise the company as to who are the influential people, who they should be targetting with promotional work, an Ambassador or High Commissioner. An Ambassador's job is to promote his country's products, I mean it's clear, if I knew those people wouldn't I go direct and not bother saying company to go to the Ambassador to go to them, wouldn't it be easier to go direct if they were so close to me, asking recommend him.

NDTV: So you accept that the note is genuine?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The note is genuine.

NDTV: So the 2008 note, which speaks of Sonia as the driving force and saying that these are the influential people around about who are the key advisors, is real?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, it came from my office, we requested of who are the important people in India today, so we sent them that message.

NDTV: What does it mean to target them?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: It's a diplomatic term, the diplomats, whenever they get an opportunity in cocktail parties or annual function to, if they can introduce the fact that there's a very good product, they should do so.

NDTV: But that's exactly the point, does it end there or does it go beyond that? And how do you then say that your product is a good product or the best product, it is the cheapest product compared to the others in the market, and therefore India should buy it? If this is what is required to be done and then go and let's say talk to Mrs Gandhi and try to in a way influence, how do you respond to that?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, influence is a wrong word. Can you imagine what the French Ambassador is doing today, trying to rescue the Rafale deal, I mean it is his job, the company would be advising him on who they think he should be going to, how they think, because they are the ultimate term..

NDTV: So you are writing on a note suggesting that the British High Commissioner, who I think is Richard Stagg, you are saying that you have identified these are the people to target? It's Mrs Sonia Gandhi who holds the keys to the power, these are the people around her and the British High Commission should be targetting these people...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: It should be promoted to them.

NDTV: What does the word target mean?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: It sounds a bit aggressive maybe.

NDTV: It sounds dubious. It sounds dubious with the retrospective knowledge that there have been kickbacks in this deal.
But that comes back to my point again that everybody is being, assuming that there have been kickbacks. I would like to get back to that, this question of kickbacks, if you take out the kickbacks, Peter Hullet he had been interviewed by Times Now, had no problem, there is nothing wrong with this note. I received it and I took it forward with the High Commission that they should try and support us, as should the English PM and the Italian PM.
I think the CAG report needs to be validated, because the CAG report says a cabin height of only one aircraft is 1.8, that's simple thing. India has hundreds of M17s and CAG don't even know the height of the cabin.

NDTV: Why did you think Sonia Gandhi was the driving force behind this deal?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Why is Amit Shah so important in India today?

NDTV: He is not more important than Modi.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I am not sure, it's your opinion, I have a different one.

NDTV: Your opinion was Sonia Gandhi was the most important political figure and these are the people around her who you were logging, what's the word you would use?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Now you have made me worried about my language.

NDTV: Let me take you to much more present time. There has been an allegation made in the House that a certain MP did come and meet you very recently, is that correct?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Nobody comes to visit me; I am suffering from every disease you can imagine. Nobody visits me

NDTV: Did a Congress leader accidentally meet you?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Not even a brush-by meeting.

NDTV: Did you have a brushed-by meeting with a Congress leader?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: There is no bumping in or no brush by meeting in Dubai or anywhere.

NDTV: You have said that now, on two different occasions, two different letters, one to the PM, one to the International Tribunal, that there was a meeting between PM Modi and Italian PM on the sidelines of the UN meet in New York. The Ministry of External Affairs is now categorically, in writing, denying that there were any such meeting at all. Does this then damage the credibility of anything else you may be saying in those letters, including the fact that you were under pressure to name the Gandhi's? Why should we believe you on that when there was no such meeting?        

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: MEA said brushed by meeting, so many Heads of State, proximity is highly likely or highly possible. That was their first statement.

NDTV: But there was a categorical denial from them, categorical in writing.   

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well yes, under the UN bilateral discussions there was no meeting. I'm not talking about a casual brush by meeting, which in terms in diplomacy means, it has a certain amount of deniability attached to it.

NDTV: Why would you know this sitting in Dubai? How would you know it?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I have been in business for over 30 years. I make a point of trying to know what's going on. United Nations, every single Head of State was there, every Intelligence Service was there. Everybody was watching everybody. It's virtually impossible to do anything without being known

NDTV: But you are faced with this denial. You seem to be somebody creating this outlandish narrative to basically cover your own tracks. Why should Indians believe you?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The problem they have is so many people were at the meeting. The Italian Ambassador, he knows everything about it. he briefed about it. Finmeccanica would brief me, as it's my second source of information.

NDTV: The Italian Embassy briefed Finmeccanica who told you that Mr Modi, our PM had a brush by meeting with the Italian PM. You are saying this story comes from the Italian Embassy, are you willing to name who said this in the Italian Embassy?


NDTV: Why not? It would add more evidence to your claim         

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: At that movement a very delicate negotiation was going on and I don't want to interfere in that, between whether this poor Marine would return or not. I think we need to let that thing happen.

NDTV: But there has been a rubbishing of that suggestion of quid pro quo.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: If you look at the facts, the strange things which have been going on. Did you know my restraint was issued on 24th of September, the same day the Indian Prime Minister arrived in New York? Did you know when I wrote to the International Court of Arbitration predicted that there was going to be an attack on Mrs Gandhi, which was an agreement between Italy and India? The new evidence that came recently, that could have come out long back.

NDTV: Why would the Italian government be complicit in attack on a opposition leader of the other country, why?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: First of all they are very upset. Congress is not supporting the Marines issue; a lot of anxiety between these two governments. The relationship between India, Europe is being damaged over this issue. It's not just an Italian issue, it's a great deal of irritation, at this moment, which everybody knows about. Now they have a new government, an opportunity to solve the issue, a new beginning. The trouble with the suggestion of the deal is it requires an illegal act to involve Mrs Gandhi, which it didn't happen, which is why I knew in November, this is going to be a big mess.

NDTV: Let me just take your reasoning a little forward. You said you predicted this a couple of months ago. Exactly what is happening, trying to drag in the Gandhi family? Predict for us if India is not able to let the Marines go back home, what is going to happen?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: This is what I was trying to avoid. This is what I was trying to say to the Prime Minister. I have been watching these sorts of things all my life. If the basis of the deal is flawed, the deal would collapse. The Honourable PM now is in an honourable position. If he lets the sailor go he will be accused of having some relationship and all of this is clear. If he doesn't let him go the Italians may do something unpleasant.

NDTV: What is unpleasant? You are actually suggesting there is a level of blackmail going on here? That Italians would say that this meeting did take place with Mr Modi if the Marines were not allowed to go?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I am just working through a scenario.  

NDTV: Let me give you another scenario, you are saying all this because you want to get out of all this, you find yourself; let me read to you what the ED preliminary report actually says about your role. And it says Michel, in collusion with associates, manages to make inroads in the Indian Air Force, and could influence change in the consistence stand of the Indian Air Force regarding minatory service sealing of the chopper and it goes on to make other points, that you and your associates basically soften the Air Force and literally infiltrate it, the Indian Air Force.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Let me give you a list of witnesses I could bring back.

NDTV: Who are they?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: All of the people witnessing the Court hearing. All of them have agreed that I didn't enter the case till the end of 2006, after the RFP came out. I wasn't even there. I think I was not even met or seek before the RFP came out. So, how can I be involved?  
Because the investigation suggests that you came on board at a stage when the deal went from 700 crores to several thousand crores, when it escalated in value that was your role.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No RFP was issued, only 12 aircraft only done before I arrived. I literally got tens of witnesses who have been coordinating this, tens of them, enemies, friends.

NDTV: What was the role you are willing to admit to here?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Implementation, that's what I do.

NDTV: What does that mean?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: What I'll leave with you is the five pages of my work document.

NDTV: The court in Milan doesn't accepted that was implemented.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The court of Milan did.

NDTV: No the court says it was vague, disproportionate to the money you have got.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The Prosecutor said that, he had said many things. Some right, some wrong. The Prosecutor said lots of things, everything bad about me ever said is correct and these notes are all real.

NDTV: Judges upheld some of the findings of the prosecution.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Judge upheld the over informing.

NDTV: And he actually spoke about an internal report of AgustaWestland that actually questions why you are getting 18 million Euros for buying back power, hence helicopter that was in a bad state, which was never effectively purchased. A judge is quoting it in court on Agusta Westland.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I have no contract to buy aircraft, to buy Pawan Hans. It was to shut down a product globally, just a Pawan Hans.....

NDTV: Then you said you got only 6 million Euros and what was this 18 million Euros?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: That's got nothing to do with VVIP, that's an absolutely accepted deal. It's a contract, Nothing mentioned India with warm words. I took helicopters, not just from Indian origin but all sorts of origin, UK, lots of places, put them all together and shut down the whole possibility of those aircraft ever flying again. It would be fine if Westland, the company not Agusta, who has no civil products, nobody cares. When it became AgustaWestland it was a very, very large civil business, that can't afford to have another crash, to a group of people who were going put those aircraft in the air. It is documented in the Internet and they were looking at the values of 15 million, 14 million for the whole fleet, with the spares, as the growing concern. Then people say uh, India sold in for 800 or 900 thousand. India didn't own those helicopters. It was an aid programme. Whatever India received they have to give back to the British government because it was a gift to India.

NDTV: So you did get 18 million euros but you are saying it's not correct.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, it's got nothing to do with this and that's been..

NDTV: VVIP chopper production.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: And it has been audited and they know it, the source and application of the funds has been done, forensically and it didn't go to...

NDTV: The internal report does question why you were given that money.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: But they are capable of doing that, but allow me to answer, I have given you an answer, but no one, I haven't been investigated. I want to be investigated. But I don't want to spend years in jail. I have a young family. I have to make money. The Embassy, the British High Commission is not going to put me up and pay me a salary. I am not a Marine. If I go to India, my kids would have to go out of education, I'll have to sell my house. I mean I am over. I am not prepared to sacrifice my family over something, which was a forgery, done by a man who didn't like the fact that I found out who he was and what he was doing

NDTV: Let me take you back to a letter or a note written by, since, you say that you were hired by Mr Orsi, why do you think in July 2013, he would write and say "call Monty or the Ambassador on my behalf and ask him to call Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? What exactly is happening, because by 2013, you know things have gone wrong in India, things have gone wrong in Italy? What exactly was this? Since you were advising the company, can you tell us what was happening?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I wasn't advising by then. I was cut off. The company did some very strange things. There were things in government that they can't find no evidence of corruption anywhere and then there would be a letter saying, due to our ongoing investigations, we terminate, we desist, we don't want to know you anywhere, so a little bit of two-facedness there. I can only say what I know about Orsi. He is an extremely fine gentleman and I stand by him today, I don't care what I hear, I cannot believe he was involved in...

NDTV: But this is Orsi's letter

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Let me come to...

NDTV: And if you believe Orsi, then Orsi is the one talking about...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Let me give you a state of mind in which the man was in. He was going from the Chairman of Italy's largest company to, at mid-night or whatever day it was, and the next morning he is at the back of a police car. And spent three months in jail. In jail you are not allowed any telephone, you are not allowed to communicate. I believe you can write, but they restrict the number of stamps you are allowed to get a hold of. I think this is a man in extreme stress, extreme pain, reaching out for anyone he can reach out to for help.

NDTV: Why only Manmohan Singh, why not his own people? Who helped him become the Chairman in Italy?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Because these people, Monty, he was a bureaucrat, but he was also clearly a very good man, there to clean up Italy, to help World Bank, Europe, keep funding him till he solved this crisis. The only people he could write to are the people he is 100% sure of their integrity, being Monty and Dr Manmohan Singh. If it were anyone else it would have been a hard look.

NDTV: Did the call take place?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, I don't believe. They couldn't make a phone call. Oh you mean their call? That I don't know.

NDTV: You know what is confusing is that all the three contentious notes, you don't deny that they existed, you have accepted that the 2008 letter was written by you.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I don't think it is a contentious note.

NDTV: Well, we do. You say Haschke did write that budget sheet. You just think that it was a plant to cover his own tracks. And three, you do accept that Orsi, sitting in jail, did write this letter suggesting Monty should call the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Doesn't this all add up? Let me ask you a basic question, do you accept that bribes were paid in AgustaWestland? Do you accept that somebody received kickbacks and do you believe that this money trail goes beyond former Air Chief, SP Tyagi?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Beyond, I would say below would be a better word.

NDTV: Below? Not higher than, but lower?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I am quite sure that it is quite possible that the kickbacks and the bribes were paid. Number one...

NDTV: When? Can you give us a date?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well, first of all, no I can't, because you are asking me what Haschke was doing and Haschke is at the center of this. In these notes I am giving you a phone transcript where Haschke says if Khaitan talks, we will be skinned alive. What's he talking about? Haschke has talked the deal. He has given the names of many people to whom he has given his latest. Many directors of Finmeccanica, all of who are in trouble and yet he is still petrified of something that Khaitan has.

NDTV: Which could be what?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Now you are asking me to speculate. I am absolutely convinced, but it is my feeling, my investigations are well underway because I have access to documents now. I am convinced that a great deal of money is either still sitting in Mauritius or went back to Italy.

NDTV: So you are actually saying that the money was round tripped. And the bribes were paid more to Italians than the Indians?


NDTV: Then what did you mean by saying that the kickbacks went lower then SP Tyagi?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well, these are lower people. Directors of Finmeccanica, they are no one. These are not senior government officials.

NDTV: So you do not believe that there is a political money trail? Whereas the judge in Milan told me that he thinks that the money went to political, beyond Tyagi to politicians.
Yes, he is saying on the basis of not interviewing a single person and having none of my evidence. So he only has half the story.

NDTV: Do you believe that SP Tyagi received money?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: If he, I don't know. But what I can say that if he did then he was just a front of Haschke, to look legitimate.

NDTV: Front for Haschke?
To say look I have got all these friends, I am a powerful man in India. You need me. Orsi didn't want to take him on. Orsi said in his statement that he did not want to take him on. He was ordered to by Finmeccanica, so why?

NDTV: Quite clearly, Haschke and you, you don't...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: We clearly don't like each other.

NDTV: Don't like each other. When did you fall out?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well, he claims in his notes, in 2008. See, I met him in January 2007, December 2006. So we had relations, we had met each other for a year in 2007 because he also said that we two should cooperate, work together and discuss. In 2008, he started to pull the piece. In 2009 he asked me if I could donate some money to his friends in Finmeccanica to which I refused and that was the end. But I also criticized his structure, the structure for engineering work. Because paying Tunisia for engineering work done in India, means that we do not get any offset credit. Understand offset. So all this money going to apparently good offset work wasn't being counted against the offset. So I said to Orsi that pay directly to India, get the offset credit, get the government approval and clearance, it won't take long and then we have our first offset business done and we can get started. It looks very good for the DO and India would be really pleased and I wasn't there, but apparently Haschke went mad that I was trying to interfere in his work. That was the end of my, I am sure that is when these notes got written, that's when everything went

NDTV: But just give us a sense, Finmeccanica, Agusta Westland bring you in. Why did they bring you in when the contracts were already signed? Why did they bring in Haschke? Why?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well, that's what I would like you to go and ask Guiseppe Orsi, why he would bring in Haschke?

NDTV: You have just said that you will stand by and that he is an honourable man.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, but he still has to live inside the Italian political environment. If his boss says to take on this guy, you do it.

NDTV: So there is another controversy with Haschke that links back to the Congress party. He was mysteriously made the Director for two months in a company called MRMGF. Subramanian Swamy and others have suggested that this is a family connected to an aide to Rahul Gandhi, Kanishka Singh. Kanishka Singh has said that yes, this is my family but I have been estranged from them and I have been estranged from them before Haschke became the Director. Does it not strike you as peculiar, since you believe that this scam involves both Italians and Indians, does it not strike you as peculiar that Haschke, with no apparent expertise, is made a Director in a firm with some historic links to an aide of Rahul Gandhi, but also a firm implicated with the Commonwealth Scam?
When I had heard that, I thought this was something that Khaitan had done for him. Something like look how powerful I am, I can get you on to the Board. And I think a lot of the people if they are offered that opportunity of a big company board would take it. But this is something, I understood, that Khaitan had arranged for him.

NDTV: What had the company wanted? There is obviously something that they wanted. There is some financial, all fixed matches are some type of financial collusion.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: What I can tell you and this is the only answer that I can tell you is that he talks very well. I'll give you an example, I had a meeting with Reuters, I was in Milan prosecuting my case against Haschke, a criminal case launched against Haschke in Milan court and I met Reuters and I gave them the documents that I was presenting them. They were pretty shocked because they had met many times, Haschke, and they say that he is the most believable man. He is a doctor of mathematics or economics I believe. He was in the World Bank. He is a very, very credible man and when they saw the documents I had they, they were absolutely astonished. And since then, I have realized that they have been destabilized and they don't comment too much about it because they don't understand how a man like that could be involved.
Can I just take you a further back, you have had a long association with India; so has your father. What is your father, I know that you had a fall out with your father but what can you tell us about the work he did? I know he did work for the Government of India.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: It is not documented contractual work. He had a number of friends in India.

NDTV: Rajiv Gandhi was one.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Let me finish. Then we can go back to specifics. He would get a request in Indian High Commission in London. For example they wanted to set-up a trade with Saudi Arabia. They needed to know if Saudi would be open to such requests. So he discussed with the Saudi Government of a possibility and the result was a very good relation between India and Saudi Arabia, which was rooted in oil trade and I think the Saudi King gifted India 35 barrels of oil as a result of those meetings.

NDTV: Who was contacting him from the Embassy?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: It would be the, it wouldn't normally be the High Commissioner, it would be the Trade Commissioner, slightly below the High Commissioner.

NDTV: It is quite unusual to call...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: This is the informal network. No, it is not the informal network that goes on all around the world. Every embassy has certain people that they call upon whenever they need help for different projects. Like if they needed to contact the Libyan leader, they could do that as well.

NDTV: You mean Gaddafi?


NDTV: Your father knew Gaddafi. And you are saying that India used him as a back channel?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: As a back channel to prepare. It is very embarrassing if a country launches into a trade relation and the country says no thanks. This is why preparations are important. These are the sorts of things he did for them

NDTV: Anything more? Any other department that he...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Well, the part of the trouble I have and this is public, the last ten years of my father's life we spent suing each other. We really didn't have a good relationship. He was a difficult man to get on with. So he didn't let me into his so-called empire, I was not a recipient of his work. I was completely cut out and this is well known
But the suggestion by Subramanian Swamy and others is that your father was very entrenched in the Congress. He knew Rajiv Gandhi well. There is also a defence deal that almost fell through with Margaret Thatcher. Rajiv Gandhi then talked to make it happen. And therefore, in a sense, you may not have inherited his world but you have inherited his Congress connections

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, but they have never met me and they don't know me and I have made no overtures to them whatsoever.

NDTV: You have met nobody in the Congress party, ever?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Not even one significant leader?


CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Not even the person you have listed as the key advisor of Sonia Gandhi?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, but they never met, they don't know me and I have not made any contact with them whatsoever.

NDTV: You have met nobody from the Congress party ever?


NDTV: Not one significant leader? Not even one from the eight you listed in the list, the key advisors to Sonia Gandhi?  

CHRISTIAN MICHEL:  If I had known them I would have requested them, the company to request High Commissioner to go to them.

NDTV: No meeting with Gandhi?


NDTV: No meeting with Gandhi's, no meeting with Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, SP Tyagi?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, no one in the list, SP Chairman, Chief sorry, I definitely met with him in the Gymkhana Club once. I knew Julie Tyagi, Haschke was very proud of his connection. Julie is a nice chap, I mean nothing wrong with him.

NDTV: I want to take you to the 180 trips to India. Tourism doesn't explain it. Love for India doesn't explain it.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, it's not that tour. There is business as well. You know developing my glass business, that's quite interesting, there is property business, you would to do that and I am advising his company and I had advised his work, so I had many things to do. But I can tell you now if I had a free weekend I'd go to India. It took me, 19 minutes for me to get to the airport from getting into the car.

NDTV: This Tunisia link that you talk about, the route through which money was channelled, there are murmurs in India about this Tunisia link and somewhere BJP murmurs. This could eventually be connected with Congress. How do you see the Tunisia link and why are you so keen to give a clean chit to Congress? It's actually a bit striking that in almost every commentary you say that I'm under pressure to name the Gandhi's, it sounds that you are actually battling for them and the emphasis is not on you as much is its on them. If you don't know them then why are you interested in what they are being accused of?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Because nobody is interested in me, everybody is interested in them; If I can rescue myself alone I would do.

NDTV: So the only way you can rescue yourself...
Is by making it very clear if they are not involved, I'm not involved. I have to rescue them to rescue myself.

NDTV: So Gandhi's are your exit route from this?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: It's clear because I'm here now is because of them. If they weren't the part of the deal or if they weren't seen, there is an opportunity to make a mess. Nobody is interested in me. I am not the issue. I have been 4 years, for some 1 thousand and 400 days I have been defending myself, getting nowhere. So okay, if I am accused of paying Congress than let's have a doubt, let's find out who did. Let the evidence say and let me out of it and get on with my life. But I can't defend myself without bringing them into it because they are the main accused.

NDTV: I want to ask one simple question, once you believed that the bribe has been paid, it has gone lower, it has a round trip. What is the amount you are looking at? And this you should know, because the company hired you to know, you to know the contract, whatever. What is the kind of money you are looking for?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I mean we'll know there is something like 22 million paid on this software business. I don't know what else has been paid because the software, which has been delivered to Augusta was a good quality and the work has definitely been done

NDTV: These are the two Chandigarh based companies?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: There is no question about that they exist, we look to the cost of them. India is 14 dollar and Europe is 35 dollars, so very large profits were made. I don't have the full figures. What I am quite sure because I am looking for, because I am suing as I am also looking for where the money is. It certainly went to Mauritius and what happened after that we don't know.

NDTV: So who is the kingpin? You said it's not you and is it beyond Haschke?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: The person who set up structures must have known and the great concern is must be skinned alive if they got have Khaitan with them. She said yes, it's a really a great statement, what is it Khaitan knows. Haschke doesn't mind giving Tyagi's name away, doesn't mind in giving his friends from Finmeccanica. So who is it he doesn't want to give away? Who is he, he doesn't get him skinned alive if he gives his name away? I don't know, but somebody very important, more important than anybody from any of his people, he has thrown him into the court.

NDTV: Somebody in India or somebody in Italy? What will you guess?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I don't know, Italy. Somebody very important in Italy. Somebody more important that the people that he got to the court. Why do you think a company Finmeccanica will pay 7.5 million just to get out of the investigation? Because the investigation will slowly turn back on Finmeccanica. They were recording Finmeccanica people talking about Haschke giving the money. It was getting embarrassing. They have 7.5 million dollars just to get out of the investigation.

NDTV:  Did you pay any journalist a bribe? Did you try and pay them to manage your story?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, no because these kinds of journalists are known and when they you do a story for you it is worse. It would be better to do a story for your competitor. It causes more trouble. In fact I am sure it has been done.

NDTV: We are into the last couple of minutes, final comments. You said somebody here in the Indian Embassy contacted you? When was that? Did they identify themselves?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: This is the Visa section, and I was taken aback, but I'm so shocked when they said, Hi this is the Indian Embassy, Have you applied for a visa? That was the question. I said no. Then said are you sure you haven't applied for visa? I don't know if somebody is trying to make some sort of trouble, I don't know. Even I remember my mother has been receiving calls from London. Many more than one a day from the people saying we are the Indian Government, we need to question your son, can we please have details. I don't know if it's a generic call provider or genuine Indian Embassy

NDTV: Why don't you want to come to India? You are sitting here openly in Dubai. What is your business in Dubai?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Businesses here, by meaning running down businesses ahead. I am also professionally suing Finmeccanica. I have won something last year and I have to win something this year. This is what is keeping me going, my losses...

NDTV: India will try to extradite you. Why don't you get approval from them, come to India and face questions.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Because what it means, what happens to Marines and what happen to, takes years. How can I not earn money for years. My father disinherited me, I have nothing. What all I have is what I make.

NDTV: And you have 44 million Euros with you?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, because when you are employing 30 people, but when you are employing many people...

NDTV: 44 million Euros?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: Yes, you, which we have never been counter level. The cost runover your network, the flying, the travel. You just said I have made 180 trips to India, can you imagine what I came across. Flying to Europe is keeping business growing. It really goes quickly. It's unbelievable. I mean you're renting offices, it's easy to spend that kind, especially when you have such a large programme.

NDTV: Two quick questions. One, a couple of more name I want to throw at you if you could tell us, SR Rajyalaxmi, is she is from Defence?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, no. I avoid certain people. It's not allowed. If we have somebody on the books he should be retired or under the contract.

NDTV: Did you by any chance met people from Defence, you know serving people? People like Suchit Pandey, Sameer Pandey, Sajjan Kumar, these are retired people

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: These are retired people, I mean every retired officer has to do something. Firstly when they retire, way far from the retiring time, they're strong, they're intelligent and they advise to give provisioning, spares, introduction, logistics. It is valuable. This is what many, many retired people do and it's legal

NDTV: In the end you were suggesting David Headly type video link testimony?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I don't know, it's just possible. It's just a way forward. I am looking for anyone's right idea here of a way forward, because I know what has happened in the past. I need to get these documents into the right hands.

NDTV: Who are the right hands?


NDTV: So why don't you just come and be questioned by them and if they come here...

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: I would be most happy to do.

NDTV: Are you wanting to take a plea bargain at this?

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: No, no I am not taking a plea bargain. That implies that there is something wrong on my side. I will stick to my position. I can defend it, I will prove it, but I will work with the authorities to find the truth in this matter.

NDTV: The most recent report is linking your father to the Panama papers. How do you respond on that? Panama is in the news for the wrong reasons.

CHRISTIAN MICHEL: This has been more than a decade really, carrying on two decades now. This is tax management. This is respectable, reasonably with all the tax legislature.

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