IN A letter to PM Narendra Modi, James Christian Michel, a UK national and an alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland deal, said that a “budget sheet” that purportedly mentions the names of Congress leader Ahmed Patel and family of former IAF chief SP Tyagi in code, as people who received bribes, may actually be fake.
“What this alleged budget sheet is about is a crude attempt by (Guido) Haschke to leave a fake budget sheet in his bag to distract the authorities in case he is raided. Haschke needed this to negotiate a plea bargain with Italian authorities,” said Michel in his letter dated Nov 8, 2015.
“This is one of the oldest tricks played by many hawala dealers in India: leave a fake black book in your safe, falsely naming everyone not involved whom you may have a grudge against, in case you are raided,” he said. The letter was written over a month after a non-bailable warrant was issued by a Delhi court on the CBI’s request. The CBI had alleged that AgustaWestland and other firms of the Finmeccanica group had engaged Michel and others (including alleged Italian middleman Guido Haschke) as agents on “payment of commission/ kickback to cause favour to M/s AgustaWestland International Ltd”.
The agency claimed that certain documents, purportedly prepared by Michel, were seized by Swiss authorities during searches. These, it said, included a “handwritten budget sheet”. It said the document showed that “the amount of Euro 30 million has been or was to be paid as illegal gratification to various persons associated in the said procurement, and others which include public/ government servants, politicians, etc. However, this document is in coded form.”
This document was produced in the Milan Court of Appeals, which, on April 8, convicted former Finmeccanica chief Giusep Orsi and head of AgustaWestland chopper division Bruno Spagnolini on charges of corruption. The document mentions codes like “AP”, “Fam”, “Pol” and “Bur” against payments that needed to be made to them. The codes have been interpreted as Ahmed Patel, family of S P Tyagi, politicians and bureaucrats respectively.
Michel, in his letter, categorically denied that he wrote the document. He said the CBI submission was erroneous and Haschke had admitted in the Italian trial court that he had written the “budget sheet”. Michel also disputed the figure of Euro 30 million allegedly paid as bribes, saying it was concocted by Haschke and he had no agreement with AgustaWestland for such commission.
The letter also referred to Modi’s New York visit, saying he met the Italian PM. “I understand that (there was) a request for assistance in the ongoing Indian investigation. In return, help was offered in (re)solving the Italian marines’ issue… All of the above is very political,” he said. He indicated that he was ready to cooperate with the Indian agencies on the condition that he would not be arrested.