The Enforcement Directorate, filing its fourth supplementary chargesheet in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, informed a Delhi special court Thursday that “kickbacks were paid to defence officials, bureaucrats, media persons and important political persons of the ruling party”.
The ED chargesheet listed a series of “dispatches” between February 2008 and October 2009 by alleged middleman Christian Michel James, including one that mentioned “Mrs Gandhi was the driving force behind the deal. The contents of these dispatches have further proved that political elite was constantly helping AgustaWestland by intervention through PMO and Defence Minister… Lobbying was done to put pressure on Finance Minister and his senior advisors”.
Another “dispatch”, the chargesheet stated, mentioned “A) Meeting at the beginning of the week with regards to the Italian Lady’s son… The gentleman confirmed that the son will be next Prime Minister and his power in the party is growing day by day. Hence, the Finance Minister’s extreme anxiety at the son’s phenomenal rise.”
The ED also told the court: “As per Christian Michel James, ‘AP’ means Ahmed Patel and ‘Fam’ means Family.”
One “dispatch” referred to a “procurement paper” being sent to “all five cabinet members — home ministry, finance ministry, foreign ministry, defence ministry, P.M. and the party leader” and that “none of them have had any problems but for Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee”. It also mentioned a conversation with “his secretary” and that the “party leader will speak to him and we expect, to calm him down”.
The chargesheet, filed before Special Judge Arvind Kumar, added three new names to the list of accused, taking the count of individuals and firms that stand accused to 41 — David Nigel John Syms, who the ED claimed was Michel’s business partner, and two firms owned by them, M/s Global Trade and Commerce Limited and M/s Global Services FZE, UAE.
The court fixed April 6 for taking cognizance of the ED’s supplementary chargesheet and to decide whether the accused should be summoned.
In the chargesheet, the ED said: “The kickbacks paid by AgustaWestland was at least about 12% of the contract amount: An amount of around Euro 70 million was paid through the two middlemen.” The “two middlemen” was a reference to Michel and businessman Guido Haschke, also an accused.
“As per the budget sheet, Euro 30 million was paid to Air Force officers, bureaucrats and politicians. Christian Michel James has further disclosed various abbreviations used in the budget sheet which contain details of payments made,” it said.
The chargesheet referred to a payment of Euro 205,860 to Ashwin Santhanam, son of journalist Raju Santhanam, and quoted Michel saying: “The payment/loan to Ashwin was to help the son of a friend. It is wrong to say this had anything to do with VIP” — Raju Santhanam was not available for comment to this mention in the chargesheet.
The Congress rejected the references to its leaders as a “cheap election stunt”. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said: “A single uncertified page leaked by ED of a purported chargesheet is a cheap election stunt to divert attention from imminent defeat of the Modi government. ED has become ‘Election Dhakosla’ of a government manufacturing a lie a day.”
“All these rehashed insinuations and lies were bundled out earlier too through a set of pliable media. Ultimately, they failed in an international court and were rejected as trash. Come election season and a panic-stricken Modi government is using the same set of lies to reset a narrative that they have already lost. We reject this rubbish being served as a diversionary political agenda by the Modi government, who has already lost the plot of 2019 elections,” Surjewala said.
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