It relied on, among other things, statements made by Christian Michel, corporate lobbyists and one of the accused Rajeev Saxena, who has turned approver.
New Delhi: The Supplementary charge-sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate in Delhi’s Patiala House court in the AgustaWestland case has named prominent politicians, journalists and bureaucrats as those who played a role in awarding the VVIP helicopter tender to Agusta during the UPA times. The contract, worth Rs 3,600 crore for 12 helicopters, was signed in 2010.
The statement records of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman who was extradited by Dubai and arrested in December last year, were also submitted and mentioned in the supplementary charge-sheet apart from statements of other accused and documentary evidences, including documents received from various countries through Letter Rogatory.
The charge-sheet, accessed by The Sunday Guardian, has 41 names as accused which includes individuals and companies that were used for paying bribe. It has relied on, among other things, statements made by Christian Michel, corporate lobbyists and one of the accused Rajeev Saxena, who has turned approver, and the documents that were seized from the possession of the accused and their relatives during the course of the investigation.
AgustaWestland, which was ousted once before while competing for the deal in 2003, employed in 2006 the services of Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel to get the contract in its name.
The charge-sheet, accessed by this newspaper, has stated that a huge amount of 30 million Euros, out of the 70 million Euros that AgustaWestland had paid to the trio, was paid as bribe amount to be distributed to people in India by the company.
As per the ED investigation, Michel obtained, stole confidential information, influenced decisions of bureaucrats, ministers and top ranking political leaders of the ruling party.
Michel obtained classified information relating to purchase of helicopters which included revised operational requirements (ORs), Flight Evaluation Time report, contents of the Technical Committee report prepared by the Indian Air Force and the evaluation report of the competitors which gave Agusta an unfair advantage.
He carried out liaisoning activities with political leaders of the ruling party, bureaucrats and ministers which helped him in obtaining details of record of discussions among Air force officials, bureaucrats and ministers in advance. He also obtained information about file movements in IAF, the Ministry of Defence and even the Cabinet Committee. The ED has found, with documentary proof, that discussions held in the Cabinet Committee were also available to him.
Michel was required to send regular dispatches to his bosses in Italy which were later seized by the Swiss Authorities, which ED has also laid its hand on.
These dispatches, as per the ED’s investigation, have proved that Michel successfully organised activities which influenced the decision of the top political leaders of the ruling party, ministers, defence officers and bureaucrats. These dispatches were sent in the month of February 2008, March 2008, May 2008, June 2008, July 2009, August 2009 and October 2009.
The ED has also found that in order to influence the public opinion, Michel used media personalities, which is evident from the trail of payment made to a senior journalist, who, as per the ED received Euro 205860.40 apart from Michel booking air tickets for him for a total amount of Rs 26.50 lakh. Michel in his statement made to the ED, which were taken in the presence of his lawyers, has also admitted that he hired the services of Guy Douglas (who worked as the spokesperson of AgustaWestland) to influence the media, a fact, which ED corroborated, on the influence that was put on a reporter and the editor to tone down the article in a reputed English newspaper.
Michel has further deposed that Douglas was in touch with several journalists. These statements were made over a period of time from December 2012 to January 2019.
The ED has also found that Michel, Haschke and Gerosa made payments to defence officials, bureaucrats, political leaders of the ruling party to influence their decisions. This fact was corroborated with the receipt of bribe in the bank accounts of the companies controlled and owned by these people. The bribe money was subsequently withdrawn using sham companies and hawala operators which the ED also corroborated with the Budget sheet that the Italian agencies shared with it. They are also mentioned in the diaries that were submitted by Rajeev Saxena.
All the dispatches that were seized by the Swiss police from the residence of Irma Haschke (Mother of Guido) and later given to Indian agencies were sent from the office of Michel and were typed by J.B. Subramaniam who is an employee of Michel. Subramaniam has also given his statement to the ED whereby he admitted that the content of the dispatches were narrated by Michel. This was further corroborated by the seizures of copies of these dispatches from the hard disk of the computer used by Subramaniam and the cross-questioning of Michel.
The 8 February 2008 dispatch reads that the Defence Secretary and the Joint Secretary (Air) will have to be brought on board at this stage.
A dispatch sent on 26 June 2008 says that Michel, for the past 10 days, has been working on political support and he had five sets of meetings at the appropriate level.
Similarly, another dispatch sent on 29 June says that the procurement paper has been sent to all five Cabinet members, Home ministry, Finance ministry, Foreign ministry, Defence ministry, the Prime Minister and the party leader. None of them had a problem, but for Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
It further stated that the Ministry of Finance was sending back questions, asking why a cheaper option cannot be found and that the Finance Minister (FM) had told his secretary to hold the file. After this, Michel sent a mutual friend to see the FM to whom the FM explained that he felt that he has been ignored in the decision making process and was being harassed into signing. It further said that the party leader will speak to him and calm him down.
A dispatch that was sent on 11 August talks about how a full committee meeting to decide what to do at the highest level took place. Michel then sent another dispatch the next day where he talked about how the NSA has received a briefing from the RAW about the threat environment. He further goes on to say that all his other contacts were working on it and that even the SPG has written to the Cabinet Secretary and the NSA. He also talks about two ministers meeting soon after which the file will be free and will go to the Cabinet Committee on Security.
In a 28 August dispatch, Michel says that the deal was all set to be done and that the Air attache in London had confirmed that the CCS dated for 3 October will clear the project.
Interestingly and perhaps shockingly, he talks about who he had fixed the CCS for 30 July with the help of bureaucrats and key political elements where it was expected that the deal would pass without any problems. However, it got stalled as the PM suddenly stated that all the ministers in the meeting should first consult the Ministry of Defence after which the file will be taken up by the CCS.
In the same dispatch, he also talks about how the new defence secretary was using his brain, the Joint Secretary has learnt his lessons and the NSA met the PM a day before while adding that the Air chief has written that his fleet of Mi 8 will go out of service in three years.
The same dispatch also talks about the Intelligence Service writing about the threat environment. Michel also talks about meeting the FM and apologising to him for not keeping him informed while adding that he had pressurised the PM through the party elite.
He further mentions that the defence minister was 100% behind him and on 24 August, the final CCS note was presented to the Defence minister which has been described as an excellent note.
In another dispatch of 15 March 2008, Michel has stated that Mrs Gandhi is the driving force behind the VVIP and that she will not fly anymore in the Mi-8. He goes on to say that Mrs Gandhi and her closest advisors are the people the High Commissioner should target while mentioning the name of Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, M.K. Narayanan and Vinay Singh.
The dispatch that was sent on 1 October 2009 talks about a meeting with regards to the Italian lady’s son. Michel talks about how he met a gentleman who confirmed that the son would be the next Prime Minster and that his power in the party was growing day by day which, as per Michel, explained the Finance Minister’s extreme anxiety at the son’s phenomenal rise. He further says that the son will be asked to raise the matter with his mother as the mother was not aware of all the facts.
In his questioning on 1 January 2019 on who the party elite was that he had referred to in his dispatches, Michel said “it was quite in order for the British Ambassador to pass a message to the UPA chairperson”.
On being asked by the investigators as to why did he instruct officials of AgustaWestland to ensure that the VIP helicopter should not be identified as an Italian product, Michel said that it should be avoided not only due to politics, but also because if they won the contract, it will be a British victory leaving Italy to bid for the Light Observation Helicopter. He further stated that by politics, he meant the implied connections between Italy and the chairperson of the UPA.
Michel in his statements acknowledged that he knew Mrs Gandhi since 1986-87 and also explained the identity of the party elite who was used to put pressure of the PM.
The charge-sheet, accessed by this newspaper, further states that due to the illegal intervention of Michel, the Russian Sikorsky were eliminated from the bid on technical grounds, which was again manipulated to include them later to avoid a single vendor situation.
The ED further found that Michel was in touch with journalists to obtain defence related confidential inputs as well as to manage the media in favour of AgustaWestland.
A 12 August 2009 dispatch talks about an article that was carried in a reputed English newspaper which Michel described as the obvious step to try and stop the deal. He further states that he was in touch with the reporter who is planning a second article which if he is not able to stop, he will at least influence it.
Michel in his statement said that he engaged Guy Douglas, who earlier worked with BAE Systems, to make sure that the media carried his side. He adds that his first task was to meet the reporter of the English newspaper, who was the most aggressive and convince him to listen to Michel’s side of the story. He goes on to add that Guy Douglas had some success as the reporter became more balanced.
A document seized by the ED, which was shown to Michel, proved that an article was published in the same English newspaper in June 2005 to create an opportunity for AgustaWestland. Michel in his statement made on 2 January 2019 did not deny making payments to the journalists, but stated that he was not involved in the VIP till December 2006 and that the payment that he made to one journalist was something that he did to help him and it was wrong to say that it had anything to do with the VIP deal.
On being asked how he influenced the series of articles that came in the English newspaper, Michel stated that by that time Guy Douglas was acting for him and he knew all the major outlets. Michel asked him to focus on calming down the second article in that English newspaper and the two main people he had to reach was the reporter and the editor.
During raids on the premise of Irma Haschke (mother of Guido Haschke), the Swiss police seized documents which contained the details of kickbacks to be paid to Air Force officials, bureaucrats and politicians, the names of which were in abbreviated form.
On being shown the documents, Michel gave the full forms of the abbreviations: AF-Air Force, DCH-Deputy Chief, PDSR-it meant PDASR (Principal Director Air Staff Requirement), FET FIELD-Evaluation team, DG Maint (Director General Maintenance), Bur-Bureaucrats, DS-Defence Secretary, JS AIR-Joint Secretary Air, AFA Air-Additional Finance Advisor Air, DC Acq-Director General Acquisition, CVC-Central Vigilance Commission, Auditor Gn-Auditor General.
While responding to the abbreviation “AP”, Michel said that he cannot say what Haschke was thinking. As a guess, he said it could be Ahmed Patel. As to the abbreviation FAM, Michel said it could mean Family.
Michel did not explain the payment amount recorded against these names and denied that he had made any payments while stating that it was Guido Haschke who made the payment. The ED, however, has stated that since Michel was in touch with all the persons mentioned in the note sheet and taking other documents that were seized, it is legally not tenable that he himself did not make these payments.
Michel has also taken the name of individuals named Jack Hoon and Jacky Calicut from the British High Commission who helped him in swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.
The ED has also found that known hawala operators R.K. Choraria and Sajjan Kumar Ranka were used by Michel to transfer bribe funds. Rajeev Saxena has also told the ED that he was aware that the ultimate beneficiaries of the bribe money that was routed through companies were highly connected political persons and people having connections with prominent political leaders.
His deposition has also corroborated that the entry in the note that was seized by the Swiss agencies and shared with India in which payments made to bureaucrats and political elite of the country was recorded, are correct.
Various documentary proof and devices submitted by Saxena also show that 15 million Euro was paid to “Fam” (Family) under the head “pol” (political). As per the ED, a total of 30 million Euros was distributed as bribe to air force officers, bureaucrats and politicians.