Indian agencies have been putting “subtle pressure” to extract “information” against the “opposition” political party, James Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,546-crore VVIP chopper scandal said on Saturday. “Since November last year, the agencies are giving subtle pressure to reveal information against the opposition, you know who. I have never paid any bribe to the Gandhis, and it is incorrect to say that I know them,” Michel told The Sunday Express by phone.
The CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) have named Michel in the case involving alleged payment of illegal kickbacks in the deal. Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him on the CBI’s request earlier this year. The ED has attached properties owned by Michel’s companies in India; it has not, however, been able to question him yet.
In April, the Milan Court of Appeals ruled that Michel was paid Rs 330 crore by AgustaWestland — a subsidiary of the Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica, and maker of the VVIP helicopters — for services including managing the media. On Friday, Italy’s top court allowed an appeal to the order, which may be decided in the next 90 days. “It was bound to happen,” Michel said. “The Milan court judgment was based on a closed door trial in which evidence was misused. I am awaiting the details of the Supreme Court order allowing the appeal.”
Although Italian prosecutors identified Michel as one of the main accused, he could not be fully investigated as he lives in Dubai, and is a British national. His firm, Global Services FZE, was allegedly involved in the transfer of bribe money to accused in India, according to the ED.
Asked if he would be willing to appear before Indian authorities in India, Michel said he was ready to face the CBI as he was having “great difficulty” since the RCN was issued. However, he had some conditions, he said.
“I am ready to face CBI but I have a few preconditions. I can come to India provided I am not incarcerated and the RCN is withdrawn against me like they have done in the case of (Ralph Guido) Haschke.” Haschke, another alleged middleman, has more information on all the players in the deal, and can provide evidence to Indian agencies to firm up their case, Michel said.
Michel claimed India’s mission in the UAE had asked him a few months back whether he was seeking a visa. “I was approached by the High Commission in the UAE 5-6 months back to enquire whether I have applied for an Indian visa,” he said.