VVIP chopper case: Christian Michel referred to a ‘Mrs Gandhi’ during interrogation, ED tells court
The court sent the alleged middleman in the deal to seven more days in the investigating agency’s custody.
The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday told the Patiala House Court in Delhi that Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, had identified a “Mrs Gandhi” during an interrogation, ANI reported. However, the investigating agency did not specify details about the identity of “Mrs Gandhi” and in what context Michel had referred to her.
The Enforcement Directorate said Michel also referred to the “the son of the Italian lady” and how he is going to become the “next prime minister of the country”, ANI reported. The court sent Michel to seven more days in the agency’s custody after it asked the judge for eight days.
“We need to decipher who the ‘big man’ referred to as ‘R’ is in the communication between Michel and other people is,” the Enforcement Directorate told the court. The investigators said Michel was attempting to misuse his access to lawyers by “passing chits about how to answer questions related to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi”, PTI reported.
Congress leader RPN Singh alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre was trying to implicate United Progressive Alliance leader Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi in the case. “There is pressure on Michel to name a particular family,” Singh said. “Why is the chowkidaar [watchman] trying to pressurize the government agencies to name a family? BJP script writers are working over time.”
Singh’s chowkidaar comment was in reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of tackling corruption as the watchman of the country.
The alleged middleman was extradited to India on December 4. He was in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation for 15 days. On December 22, the Enforcement Directorate arrested Michel after a Special Central Bureau of Investigation court remanded him to its custody for seven days.
The former Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had signed the Rs 3,565-crore helicopter deal in 2010 with the British-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The deal was put on hold after Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company, on charges of paying bribes to win the contract. Michel is one of three suspected middlemen who Indian investigative agencies believe brokered the deal.
BJP says ED statement ‘points to one family’
Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Saturday said the Enforcement Directorate’s statement points to “towards one family”. He accused the Congress of compromising India’s national security during its regime.
“The story of loot of public money is coming out, Everything went to one family,” Javadekar said. The minister demanded that the Congress issue a statement on whom Michel meant by “R”.