Agusta: CBI, ED Mount Aggressive Hunt for Michel
Chopper co had tasked now-fugitive Brit with managing Indian media
Manu Pubby & Rahul Tripathi
New Delhi: Christian Michel, the British national sought by India in connection with the probe into the AgustaWestland deal, is now being aggressively pursued, investigators said. Michel had been tasked by Agusta to manage the Indian media as the deal progressed. Michel, who had been paid .₹ 330 crore by AgustaWestland for various services, as per the Milan Court of Appeals judgement, was never questioned in person by Italian investigators. India had got a red corner Interpol notice issued against him.
Officials from both Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate said there are new leads in the case.
CBI officials told ET the agency has now received a full reply to letters rogatory sent to Italy.
CBI has also received partial replies from Tunisia, British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom. These are also the places CBI says are possible destinations for the money received by Michel from Agusta.
CBI officials said they are better informed now on Michel but did not wish to give out details of the current investigation. They, however, said Michel was “most likely” in the UK and not Dubai, as he himself has claimed.
The agency dismissed reports that Michel has offered to depose before Indian agencies. Officials said it “wasn’t true” that Michel had made such an offer to the Prime Minister’s Office in a letter. “He needs to approach us,” an official said.
ED, for its part, is on to what its investigators say are Michel’s ‘benami’ properties in India. The agency has identified and attached properties belonging to a company. Assets include a flat in Delhi’s posh Safdarjung Enclave area, a luxury car and a fixed deposit of .₹ 54 lakh, ED officials said. Efforts are on to identify and attach more assets linked to Michel, investigators said.
Interestingly, according to documents seized by Italian prosecutors, which ET has reviewed, Michel was required by Agusta to manage the media in India. The British national was tasked by the Italian company to give feedback on Indian media activity on the deal. Michel’s firm, Global Services FZE, was to “inform the company (Agusta) of any hostile press activity that may impact on the execution of the contract”.
While Michel was identified as one of the main accused by Italian prosecutors, he could not be fully investigated as he resided in Dubai and was a British national. While the Italian prosecutors established that he received a total of .₹ 330 crore from Agusta, they could not determine where this money went to or how it was spent.
On the other hand, the money trail from Guido Hashke, who resided in Switzerland, was established by the court to the Tyagi brothers as his business establishments in Italy and Switzerland were raided. Besides, Haschke and his associates were secretly taped by investigators whenever they travelled in Italy.
Such an investigation could not be carried out on Michel’s companies as he was outside the jurisdiction of the Italian authorities.