AgustaWestland: Michel Didn’t Confirm ‘AP’ is Ahmed Patel To ED
Based on the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) supplementary charge sheet on the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam filed on 4 April, it was reported that Christian Michel, one of the accused, has said in his statement that the abbreviation ‘AP’ in the so-called ‘budget sheet’ for the deal stands for senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
But did Michel actually say this in his statement to ED?
The Quint has exclusively accessed Michel’s hand-written statement recorded by ED, which is annexed with the AgustaWestland charge sheet. The statement recorded on 3 January 2019 states:
“I can’t say what Haschke was thinking. As a guess, I would be thinking that he (Haschke) was thinking Ahmed Patel.”
However, the ED concludes in the charge sheet:
“As per Christian Michel James, ‘AP’ means Ahmed Patel and ‘Fam’ means ‘Family’.”
Clearly, there is a discrepancy in what the charge sheet concludes and what Michel has told ED.
Michel had also said in his statement recorded on 2 January 2019:
“The budget sheet to me is clearly to sensationalise, (Pol) section.”
The ED received this ‘budget sheet’ in response to its Letter Rogatory sent to Italy. The budget sheet was recovered from Guido Haschke’s residence, a middleman in the VVIP chopper case.
The agency claims in the charge sheet that “as per the budget sheet, 30 million Euro was paid as a bribe to Air Force officers, Bureaucrats and Politicians”. There are several abbreviations mentioned in the ‘Political’ section, and two of them are ‘AP’ and ‘Fam’.
ED is Misleading the Country: Michel’s lawyer
Michel’s lawyer, Aljo Joseph, told The Quint that ED is conducting a political investigation.
“When Michel has rejected the budget sheet itself in several words in his statement, then how can he give expansions to the abbreviations mentioned in the sheet. ED is misleading this country. The investigation is not impartial. Independence of investigating agencies is at stake.”
Why Did Michel Name Only Ahmed Patel: ED Official
A senior ED official on the condition of anonymity told The Quint, “The court will decide the relevance of Michel’s statement.”
“The prosecution can interpret Michel’s statement on Patel as a half-truth. The agency can say that why did he only name Ahmed Patel and no other person/politician, which could mean that he is hiding something. While defence lawyer could give an argument that Michel was merely guessing the name Ahmed Patel.”
The other important player is Guido Haschke, who wrote the budget sheet. The agency hasn’t yet succeeded in extraditing him to India. Haschke has already told an Italian court that he wrote the budget sheet on Michel’s dictation and he doesn’t know what ‘AP’ stands for.
In his statement, Michel has given full forms of other abbreviations mentioned in the budget sheet – ‘AF’ means ‘Air Force’, ‘Bur’ means ‘Bureaucrats’, ‘DS’ means ‘Defence Secretary’ etc.
The ED chargesheet also mentions that “Michel did not explain the payment amount recorded against these persons on the budget sheet’.
In his statement, Michel said that the payments were made by Haschke and not by him, hence is not aware of the amounts mentioned in the budget sheet.
Ahmed Patel’s Name Surfaces In One of the Dispatches
Since the statement given to ED is admissible in court, Michel’s statement will be considered as an important piece of evidence. The ED official also added that Michel’s statement on Patel cannot be looked at in isolation, other documents will also be taken into consideration during the trial.
Apart from the budget sheet, Ahmed Patel’s name surfaced in one of the dispatches dated 15 March 2008. It was typed by Michel’s employee JB Subramanian and on his instructions was faxed from India to Italy.
The dispatch was written to Peter Hulett, the then Head of Region, Government Sales, at AgustaWestland’s India office, instructing him to advice the British High Commissioner in India to “target” people close to “Mrs. Gandhi” (Sonia Gandhi).
According to the ED chargesheet, Michel has admitted that these dispatches were typed by his employee but at the same time, Michel gave evasive answers in his statement.
The question remains - will this dispatch be enough to conclude that Michel knew Ahmed Patel?
“Michel’s statement is a crucial evidence. But the agency will certainly need to corroborate his statement with more evidence.”ED Official
Michel was extradited to India from UAE in December 2018. The agency is probing alleged bribery in the UPA-era AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal worth Rs 3,600 crore. The allegation against Michel is that he bribed Indian politicians, bureaucrats and defence officials to secure the chopper deal.