The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a supplementary charge sheet in the AgustaWestland scam against key middlemen Christian Michel James and Rajiv Saxena and 13 others, officials familiar with the development said on Saturday. The latest charge sheet details alleged role played by British middleman James in bringing bribes for politicians, bureaucrats and Indian Air Force (IAF) officials in India in the Rs 3,727 crore scandal.
The second charge sheet was filed on Friday and doesn’t name any politician or senior bureaucrat so far. The first charge sheet in the case was filed in September 2017 naming former IAF chief SP Tyagi and others.
In its first chargesheet, CBI had established “money trail” of 62 million euros (around Rs 415 crore) out of suspected 67 million euros (Rs 452 crore) total bribe paid to Indians through middlemen. According to the agency, the irregularities in the award of contract to AgustaWestland led to estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (around Rs 2,666 crore) to the Indian government in the 556.262 million euros (Rs 3726.9 crore) contract.
Here are the 10 big developments in the case:
* The agency had, in March this year, sought prosecution sanction against former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, former Air vice marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar and three other IAF officers – deputy chief test pilot SA Kunte, wing commander Thomas Mathew and former group captain N Santosh, However, it decided to file a charge sheet without naming them as the ministry of defence (MoD) is yet to give its sanction.
* A supplementary charge sheet will be filed against Sharma and others when the sanction is accorded, according to officials familiar with the development.
* Rajiv Saxena was brought from Dubai in January 2019 and made an approver by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the case but the agency later sought revocation of this status saying he misled the investigators. ED had claimed that Saxena is a ‘hawala operator’ and accommodation entry provider who runs the accommodation entry business in Dubai through numerous companies known as Matrix Group companies and has laundered proceeds of crime in the cases of AgustaWestland scam, or VVIP chopper scam.
* Michel was extradited to India on December 4, 2018, from Dubai. He was allegedly paid 42 million euros (Rs 295 crore) bribe by Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for further paying to Indian politicians, bureaucrats and defence ministry personnel for swinging the deal for 12 VVIP choppers in favour of the company.
* “He was a frequent visitor to India and was operating as a middleman for defence procurements through a wide network of sources cultivated in the IAF and ministry of defence at different levels including retired and serving IAF officials. He was tracking the movements of the procurement process files and was sending periodical reports/despatches on the developments to the accused persons connected with M/s AgustaWestland. In this process, he shared the information collected from IAF and MoD with his associate(s), who used to transmit the despatches through FAX to the other counterparts sitting abroad in Italy and Switzerland,” said a CBI officer who didn’t wish to be named.
* According to second CBI officer, Christian Michel was imposed as a controller on the other two middlemen namely Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa (already roped in by AgustaWestland) as they had no specific knowledge in the specific sector of helicopters.
* CBI investigation documents accessed by HT reveal that a meeting was held in Cascina Costa, Italy during July, 2006 in which it was proposed that Michel will join Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa in carrying out scouting and monitoring activities with regard to the acquisition of helicopters in India, keeping in view of his knowledge of Indian military operational mechanism. “During this meeting, they had negotiated a comprehensive fees equal to 7% of the supply contract amount to cover the expenses and fees of both of them,” said the second officer.
* Michel entered into as many as 12 contracts through two of his firms – M/s Global Trade and Commerce Ltd London and M/s Global Services FZE, Dubai, UAE with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Westland Helicopters UK etc to legitimise the illicit commission on the procurement of the VVIP helicopters. “Finmeccanica paid total 42.27million euros (Rs 295 crore approximately) to the firms of Christian Michel as kickbacks/bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount,” said the officer.
* Michel had prepared a note in which alleged bribes worth 30 million euros meant for Indian politicians and bureaucrats were mentioned. CBI pinned hopes on his interrogation, particularly to identify individuals who were referred to as “AP”, “Pol”, “Bur” and “AF” mentioned in this note.
* Abbreviations of designations like ‘DCH’, ‘PDSR’, ‘DG Maintt” and ‘FTT’ under the head AF (air force) were used in the note. It had entries like ‘DS’, ‘JS Air’, ‘AFA Air’ under the head ‘BUR’, ‘DG Acq’, ‘CVC’ and ‘Auditor Gen’ and under the head ‘POL’, it had ‘AP’. The note had a separate entry ‘Fam’, believed to be SP Tyagi’s three cousins – Sanjeev, Rajiv and Sandeep Tyagi. It said 6 million euros were for ‘AF’ (Air Force), 8.4 million euros for ‘BUR’ (bureaucrats), 3 million euros for ‘AP’ and 15-16 million euros for ‘Fam’.