Investigators have got some “vital” leads on the Indian contacts and fund sources of Christian Michel, an alleged defence middleman, after interrogating his local driver in connection with the money laundering probe in the nearly Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal.
Officials said Michel’s driver, Narayan Bahadur, was questioned at length by ED sleuths in the last few days and he has divulged vital information about contacts of the British national who has emerged as the crucial link in the case where agencies are probing alleged payment of kickbacks that helped swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland for supply of 12 choppers for flying VVIPs.
They claimed the driver was getting money through global wire fund transfer services till recently and this could help investigators in locating the current operations and activities of Michel against whom both the ED and CBI have obtained Interpol Red Corner Notices for arrest.
The driver, sources said, used to ferry Michel during his visits to India and worked with him for close to four years.
He used to pick up Michel from his hotel in central Delhi and took him to his Indian and foreign contacts in Lutyens Delhi and southern part of the national capital.
Though Bahadur had been questioned by the agencies earlier too, they stumbled upon some vital leads recently when ED sleuths searched his premises and are understood to have seized some documents, phones and a few other things which could throw light on Michel’s role in the scandal.
The VVIP choppers deal probe has shed light on the involvement of three alleged middlemen--Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke and Michel-- in swinging the deal in favour of UK-based AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian firm Finmeccanica.
Investigating agencies are probing their role in the specific context of alleged payment of bribes and extension of favours by the company to clinch the multi-million dollar deal.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with the company over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.
Both the probe agencies have also issued separate Letters Rogatories (LRs) to various countries seeking assistance to take the probe forward.
A joint team of the two agencies is likely to travel soon to a few overseas locations to track the trail of funds, both through wire tranfer and cash.