The role of a senior Congress leader, who dons multiple hats, is likely to be investigated in the multi crore AgustaWestland helicopter scam.
Sources familiar with the conduct of the middleman, the 54-year-old Christian Michel, who is absconding, stated that he would prefer operating from the Claridges Hotel. In fact, it was only after the Enforcement Directorate first tracked the calls that he made from the Claridges, when the deal was being made, that led to the unravelling of the money trail.
The Claridges is owned by Indian businessman Suresh Nanda, who is an arms dealer and whose name had cropped up in the Barak missile deal. According to sources, the Nandas are allegedly close to a Congress leader who has been associated with a popular sport and is known for his alleged ability to act as a bridge between the top party leadership and businessmen, including Suresh Nanda.
“The role of this Congress leader, in view of his alleged relationship with Nanda is no secret. Michel could not have operated in India, without the support of existing Indian arm dealers. With the Italian court order pointing out that the bribe money was also paid to Indian politicians, we are going to examine the role of this Congress leader,” an official said.
Michel allegedly played a key role in swinging the Rs 3,727-crore deal for AgustaWestland to supply 12 VVIP helicopters in 2010. As per the Italian investigators, AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, allegedly paid more than Rs 375 crore as bribe to secure the deal. Michel had come under the scanner after an Italian court convicted two former officials of the defence giant for corruption. The names of five Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi, figure in the judgement by the Milan court.
Queries sent by this newspaper to the media in-charge of Claridges hotel asking whether, or not, Suresh Nanda knew arms dealer Christian Michel, did not elicit any response until the time the story went to the press.