NEW DELHI— The Central Bureau Investigation is all set to examine British national and middleman Christian James Michel in the Rs. 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case in the light of documents and statements of his Delhi-based associate R.K. Nanda, sources said Dec. 7.
A senior CBI official told IANS the agency will confront Michel with the statements and documents of his close associate Nanda and Nanda's Mumbai-based partner J.B. Balasubramanian.
The official said that Michel was instrumental in helping Nanda form a shell company in 2005, Media Exim Pvt Ltd, with Balasubramanian as another director.
He alleged that Nanda's company was a dummy and used for Michel to park illegal money and nominally export jewelry and music CDs to Dubai from India.
The official also said that as per Nanda's statement to the agency in 2015, he received Rs. 6.5 crore from Michel's Dubai-based company Global Services FZE between 2005 and 2007.
The official said that Nanda, who also ran a travel business based in Connaught Place here, had received the Rs. 6.5 crore in his Media Exim account and that it was paid from Michel's Dubai bank accounts with HDFC Bank and Citibank.
He said the company was set up in 2005 ostensibly to export jewelry and music CDs, but nothing was ever exported. Later, as directed by Michel, properties were purchased in Media Exim’s name.
The official also said that according to Nanda’s statement, Nanda was introduced to Balasubramanian through Michel.
The official said that earlier, Balasubramanian in his statement to the agency disclosed that he had met Michel through one Seturaman of the Nelson Health Club in Samrat Hotel in 2005.
He said that Michel and Nanda invested in real estate in Delhi and bought three properties, including a farmhouse in Chhattarpur, in Media Exim’s name.
However, Michel, with Nanda’s help, sold two of the three properties in 2011 and 2012. "The money was transferred to Michel's Dubai-based firm Global Finance FZE by Nanda," the official said.
The official further pointed out that during the investigation, it was noticed that Nanda allegedly received nearly Rs. 19 crore from Michel. Even Nanda's company, Supreme Airways, used to buy air tickets for Michel's travels and his other contacts, for which a payment of Rs. 12 crore was made.
Besides Nanda, the official said Michel’s driver, Narayan Bahadur, who drove him around the power centers of the national capital, would also be confronted in the coming days as he, in his statement to the agency in 2015, had said he was once asked to drive three English friends from the Hyatt Hotel to a Bungalow at Sainik Farms in Delhi, where a function was being held.
In his statement, Bahadur also mentioned that one Indian received Michel’s three friends 2008. When Bahadur was asked to choose from several photos a picture of the Indian, he picked the photo of Sanjeev Tyagi.
Michel is currently being questioned by the CBI, which obtained a five-day remand on Dec. 5 after he was extradited to India from Dubai late Dec. 4 night. He will be produced before a special CBI court on Dec. 10.
The CBI Dec. 6 said that it has received a request for consular access to Michel from the British High Commission through the Ministry of External Affairs. The request is being processed.
Michel has been accused of bribing many politicians, officials and journalists to swing the deal and is being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
In 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italian company Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for choppers for the Indian Air Force over an alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to secure the deal. The revelations were made during a judicial trial against the company in Italy.