The CBI’s probe into the VVIP choppers deal has zeroed in on three firms allegedly involved in the bribe money trail and linked to UK-based AgustaWestland’s middleman, Christian Michel.
One of the firms under the scanner, Media Exim Private Limited, was incorporated in India in 2005 and is being examined for its role in suspected transactions related to the bribe funds, said a CBI source. The firm allegedly received Rs 6.5 crore during 2005-07 from a Dubai-based firm controlled by Michel, Global Services, FZE, said the source.
The Dubai firm in turn has been accused of receiving payments from the chopper’s maker, AW Limited, and parts of them were routed to a third firm associated with Michel, Singapore-based Moorbank East India.
Michel is among three non-Indian middlemen accused by both the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI for receiving commissions of around Rs 360 crore from AW Ltd to bribe “various persons who helped ink the deal.”
India recently received from Italy a copy of a March 5, 2008, letter e-mailed by Michel to a then top official of AW Limited, allegedly recommending ways to conceal the commissions. In the email, Michel said that he had a group of companies providing promotional services for the UK firm that “could be paid monthly in connection with the
signature of AW’s first new major contract in India”.
The email mentioned Media Exim and Moorbank, as a consultancy firm. The AW chopper was selected for the contract in April 2008.
The CBI on Tuesday questioned Media Exim’s director RK Nanda, who was formerly Michel’s alleged “travel agent”. “Nanda’s firm, Supreme Airways, purchased tickets for
Michel during his numerous trips to India till 2012,” said another agency source. Nanda’s firm allegedly received Rs 12 crore from Michel’s Dubai firm for buying tickets of influential Indians.
The firm ostensibly dealt in music CDs and jewellery, said the source. Nanda denied the allegations, said a source.
An ED probe document said the “kickbacks received by Michel in his company Global Services, FZE, Dubai, in the guise of two agreements from Agusta Westland, were… kickbacks.” Investigators are verifying if funds received by Media Exim were invested in immovable properties and other valuables, whose “re-sale proceeds” went back to Michel.
The CBI on Tuesday also grilled three FIR-named accused, lawyer Gautam Khaitan, and businessmen Pratap Aggarwal and Praveen Bakshi.