Have To Protect Gandhis To Protect Myself: Agusta Middleman To NDTV

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I did call Sonia Gandhi the "driving force" in AgustaWestland chopper deal, alleged middleman Christian Michel James tells NDTV


Dubai: 

Highlights

  1. Agusta paid bribes in India to get helicopter order, Michel was middleman
  2. Michel says he does not know Gandhis, asked for them to be lobbied
  3. Lobbying them does not mean bribes were paid: Michel to NDTV
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.  

"I have to protect the Gandhis to protect myself," he said to NDTV when asked about his comments that they played no part in the scandal, "I have to prove they are innocent to prove my innocence."

Mr Michel said that he stands by his earlier claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year met with his Italian counterpart in New York, and offered to release two Italian marines imprisoned in India on murder charges in exchange for information about the Agusta deal that could embarrass or implicate Mrs Gandhi.

In denying that its top bosses are linked to the Agusta scam, the Congress had questioned the authenticity of the note Mr Michel verified today.  Other letters of imprisoned executives from Agusta, an Anglo-Italian firm, also name-check Mrs Gandhi and top Congress leaders; the papers were reviewed by a Milan court  which has found Agusta guilty of paying bribes in India.

The verdict - delivered a few weeks ago - has given the BJP considerable ammo in resuscitating the Agusta scandal as a national controversy and alleging new proof of the complicity of the Congress' top bosses in the helicopter swindle.  The order, worth 3,600 crores, was cancelled in 2014 after the Italian investigation ramped up.  

Mr Michel has over the last few months repeatedly claimed that when Mr Modi was in New York last year for a UN summit, he met on the sidelines with the Italian premier to solicit details gleaned from the Italian investigation that could be used against Mrs Gandhi. In Parliament, the government has denied that the meeting took place. Mr Michel told NDTV that his information is sources from officials in the Italian embassy in Delhi.


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