VVIP chopper scam: CBI files supplementary charge sheet against Michel, Saxena, 13 others
The second charge-sheet filed on Friday has not named any politician or senior bureaucrat so far. The first charge-sheet in the case was filed in September 2017 and named former IAF chief SP TyagiUpdated: Sep 19, 2020, 12:16 IST
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a supplementary charge-sheet in the Rs 3,727 crore AgustaWestland chopper scam naming 15 individuals and entities, including British middleman Christian Michel James and Rajiv Saxena, who allegedly played key a role in facilitating kickbacks for politicians, bureaucrats and Indian Air Force (IAF) officials, people familiar with the matter said.
The second charge-sheet filed on Friday has not named any politician or senior bureaucrat so far. The first charge-sheet in the case was filed in September 2017 and named former IAF chief SP Tyagi.’
The agency in March sought prosecution sanction against former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Air Vice Marshal (retired) Jasbir Singh Panesar and three other IAF officers, S A Kunte, Wing Commander Thomas Mathew and retired Group Captain N Santosh. But it decided to file the charge-sheet without naming them as a sanction is awaited from the ministry of defence (MOD).
Officials familiar with the matter said another supplementary charge-sheet will be filed against Sharma and others when the sanction is accorded.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) made Saxena, who was brought to India from Dubai in January 2019, an approver in the case. But the agency later sought revocation of this status saying he misled the investigators.
ED has accused Saxena of being a “hawala operator” who ran accommodation entry business in Dubai through companies like Matrix Group. Saxena is accused of laundering proceeds of crime in the scam.
Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland allegedly paid Michel, who was extradited to India in December 2018 from Dubai, Euro 42 million (Rs 295 crore) to bribe politicians, bureaucrats and defence ministry personnel for swinging the deal for 12 VVIP choppers in favour of the company.
“He was a frequent visitor to India and was operating as a middleman for defence procurements through a wide network of sources cultivated in the IAF and Ministry of Defence at different levels including retired and serving IAF officials. He was tracking the movements of the procurement process files and was sending periodical reports/despatches on the developments to the accused persons connected with M/s AgustaWestland. In this process, he shared the information collected from IAF and MoD with his associate(s), who used to transmit the despatches through FAX to the other counterparts sitting abroad in Italy and Switzerland,” said a CBI officer, who did not wish to be named.
A second CBI officer said Michel was imposed as a controller on the other two middlemen, Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, as they had no specific knowledge in the specific sector of helicopters.
According to CBI’s investigation documents accessed by HT, at a meeting held in Cascina Costa (Italy) in July 2006, it was proposed that Michel will join Haschke and Gerosa in monitoring activities with regard to the acquisition of helicopters in India, keeping in view of his knowledge of Indian military operational mechanism. “During this meeting, they had negotiated a comprehensive fee equal to 7% of the supply contract amount to cover the expenses and fees of both of them,” said the second officer.
Michel signed 12 contracts through two of his firms with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Westland Helicopters UK etc to legitimise the illicit commission on the procurement of VVIP helicopters.
“Finmeccanica paid total Euro 42.27million [Rs 295.00 crore approx] to the firms of Christian Michel as kickbacks/bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount,” said the second officer.
Michel had prepared a note in which alleged bribes worth Euro 30 million meant for politicians and bureaucrats were mentioned. CBI pinned hopes on his interrogation, particularly to identify individuals who were referred to as “AP”, “Pol”, “Bur” and “AF” in the note.
The note used abbreviations of designations like “DCH”, “PDSR”, “DG Maintt” and “FTT” under the head “AF (air force)”. Under the head “BUR”, it had entries like “DS”, “JS Air”, “AFA Air”, “DG Acq”, “VC” and “Auditor Gen” and under the head “POL”, it had “AP”. The note had a separate entry “Fam”, believed to be S P Tyagi’s family – his three cousins Sanjeev, Rajiv and Sandeep Tyagi. It mentioned that Euro 6 million were for “AF” (Air Force), 8.4 million for “BUR” (bureaucrats), 3 million for “AP” and 15-16 million for “Fam”.
In its first charge-sheet, CBI said it had established the “money trail” of Euro 62 million (around 415 crore) out of suspected 67 million (Rs 452 crore) bribe paid to Indians through middlemen.
The irregularities in the award of the contract to AgustaWestland led to an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (around Rs 2,666 crore) to the government in the Euro 556.262 million (Rs 3726.9 crore) contract, according to CBI.
The contract was cancelled in January 2014.