British middleman Christian Michel now claims to have spearheaded a big attempt to “virtually engage the entire UPA cabinet” to swing the VVIP chopper deal for Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland, now known as Leonardo.
The CBI has accessed a fax message allegedly sent by him to AgustaWestland’s then senior vice-president for international business Giacomo Saponaro in January 2010 in which he claimed that he had to overcome the resistance put up by the then finance secretary who, according to him, was sympathetic to the “Russian lobby“.
Michel claimed that he virtually engaged the entire UPA cabinet” to neutralise the lobbying on behalf of the US (for Sikorsky S-92 helicopter) and Russia (Mi-172), for IAF’s order for 12 choppers for its VIP squadron.
The Cabinet Committee on Security led by then PM Manmohan Singh had cleared the proposal for 12 VVIP helicopters in AgustaWestland’s favour on January 18, 2010. CBI officials suspect Michel had sent this fax dispatch from his Mumbai office just before the final decision.
The fax dispatch received by the CBI from Italy shows that Michel was able to track the movement of files real time in the finance and defence ministries even before the minister himself could know about it. He assured his paymasters at Agusta that he had negotiated the deal despite the obstacles by organising a “very high-level intervention.”
In what further showed Michel’s knowledge about future meetings and decisions, he told Saponaro that finance ministry’s concerns would be sent on “Friday” to the defence minister, who would then meet the finance minister to “sort this out” and “end the dispute”.
CBI sources said Michel had given vague answers on the fax dispatch during his questioning over the last 14 days.
It is said that Michel confidently informed Saponaro that the cabinet was going to clear the contract in their favour within a week despite pressure from Americans and Russians as well as finance secretary’s pricing.