The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has acquired key evidence that corroborates allegations of chopper manufacturer AgustaWestland (AW)’s UK firm camouflaging commissions paid to a British middleman to clinch the controversial 2010 contract with India during the UPA government.
The ED found a March 5, 2008 letter e-mailed from Christian Michel, the alleged middleman, to John Grandy, the then CEO of AW Ltd, the company’s British manufacturer, allegedly instructing how to conceal the commission paid.
Michel allegedly told Grandy 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”.
AW Ltd and India signed a Rs 3600 crore deal in 2010 for the supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers after a selection process that was allegedly manipulated in AW’s favour. AgustaWestland is a subsidiary of the Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica.
Michel is among three non-Indian middlemen accused by both the ED and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for having taken commissions worth Euro 70 million (around Rs 360 crore) from AW Ltd to bribe “various persons who helped ink the deal.”
According to the ED’s investigations, Euro 30 million of the total commissions paid went to the Dubai-based Michel and his group of firms for “service contracts” while the rest was paid to two other middlemen, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.
An ED probe document accessed by Hindustan Times read: “During the course of investigations under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, certain documents of Italian Court proceedings were obtained from Ministry of Defence, which revealed a letter dated March 5, 2008 from Christian Michel to John Grandy – AW (AgustaWestaland) Ltd’s CEO.”
In the letter, Michel mentioned firms such as ‘Media Exim’ and ‘Moorbank East India’. The ED document said that the “kickbacks received by Christian Michel James in his company M/s Global Services, FZE, Dubai in the guise of two agreements from M/s Agusta Westland, were …kickbacks.”
In a related development, the CBI received a “full reply” from Italy in response to its letters rogatory (a court request to a foreign country for judicial assistance) seeking details on the scam’s money-trail. The CBI has received the statements of the accused persons made before the Italian court that is conducting a trial over the alleged corruption connected to the Indian deal. “CBI has received partial responses yet from UK, British Virgin Islands and Tunisia and we have sent them reminders for completing the information,” said a CBI source.
The CBI sent letter rogatories to eight countries in the case, response to which will help investigators close in on the accused, including Michel.
HT could not contact AW’s spokesperson on Wednesday, but in earlier statement, he denied any wrongdoing on the company’s part. “The allegations concerning the AW101 contract are based on speculations and no evidence.”
Both ED and CBI have sought a copy of the April 7 order of a Milan Court of Appeals, which awarded jail terms to a former AW top official and the former head of Finmeccanica for the Indian 2010 deal.