CHRISTIAN MICHEL, alleged middleman in the VVIP chopper deal, said on Wednesday that he “probably met” former IAF chief S P Tyagi at Delhi’s Gymkhana Club. He added that he never met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or former Defence Minister A K Antony.
“I probably met ex-Air chief S P Tyagi in Gymkhana Club. And I think I shook his hand there. But because of his association with (Guido) Haschke, I really avoided him,” said Michel in an interview to India Today news channel in Abu Dhabi.
When asked whether he had met top Congress leaders, he said, “No, never”. “I have never met Sonia Gandhi, never met Manmohan Singh or A K Antony. Congress never interfered in Agusta deal. I avoid meeting leaders, my expertise is implementation,” he said.
Denying any wrongdoing on his part, Michel said he couldn’t be sure that kickbacks were not paid, and sought to blame lawyer Gautam Khaitan, and the other alleged middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. “I cannot say there were no (kickbacks)… Gautam Khaitan is certainly the brain behind the scandal. He was responsible for moving the money. He knows everything,” he said.
He said he wasn’t keen on the Tyagi brothers as he always suspected Haschke. “I was introduced to Julie Tyagi as a powerful industrialist. Julie is a very nice man. He didn’t promise me any deal. I was very nervous of them,” he said.
Asked if S P Tyagi played an instrumental part in the deal, Michel replied: “I think Tyagi was used as a tool for Haschke to get inside AgustaWestland. I don’t think he can play any major role.” Attempting to clear top leaders in the Congress and BJP, he said: “I think Indian leaders did their job. But to say that a man like (A B) Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh or A K Antony is involved is ridiculous. No one would believe that.”
Michel also said he was ready to be interviewed and examined by CBI and ED, which are probing the case, but he would not come to India as it could take more than 25 years to clear his name. He said the agencies could approach him through the Indian High Commission in UAE and he would cooperate. “Video-conferencing is also a good way to go about it,” said Michel.
Both the CBI and ED have made it clear that they want Michel to come to India and join the investigation.
Michel also made a mention of BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, who he described as his father Wolfgang Michel’s “good friend”. He said he was shocked to see Swamy attacking his father, who, he claimed, had close relations with various political leaders in India.
He said Swamy had been misled about the deal. “He has authenticated (documents) what was given in the CAG report… They (CAG) are not aviation experts and they are bureaucrats asked to put together document way beyond their expertise. So he was misled by his own documentation,” he said.
The ED is reported to have found that Michel’s driver, Narayan Bahadur, was still receiving payments through overseas wire service from him. Asked whether the money was meant for somebody else, Michel said it was “for him”.
“He (Bahadur) is my driver. I know him. He is my dear friend. I hope and have full intention to keep him rest of my life. He has been with me for years and years. I am going to bring him to Dubai and look after him,” he said.
Michel also said that though he had many journalist friends in India, none had been paid any money, nor had anyone ever demanded any money.
Earlier, Michel’s lawyer had said he was ready to come to India and face investigators provided he gets an assurance that he will not be arrested.
Michel is one of three alleged middlemen whom the Indian investigating agencies suspect to have brokered the chopper deal in favour of AgustaWestland.