National

ED probing British national’s role in VVIP chopper deal

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched investigations into the alleged role of British national Christian Michel, who, according to Italian documents, received €30 million to help swing the Rs. 3,700-crore VVIP chopper deal in favour of AgustaWestland.

The arrest warrant issued in Italy against the then Finmeccanica chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi mentioned that he had transferred around €30 million to Mr. Michel to ensure that his company’s subsidiary AgustaWestland clinched the contract for the supply of 12 helicopters.

Based on the findings, an Italian court recently issued arrest warrants against Mr. Michel and lawyer Gautam Khaitan in the case.

Following the arrest of accused Gautam Khaitan in the capital about a fortnight ago, the ED is learnt to have given an elaborate presentation on the case before the special investigation team on black money. The presentation also highlighted a range of issues and obstacles in probing Mr. Michel’s alleged complicity.

The agency suspects that the kickbacks for the deal were paid through two separate channels, and the one involving Mr. Michel was used to influence the “high and mighty.”

In the Italy court, another middleman Guido Haschke — who has struck a plea bargain — had nothing much to offer on Mr. Michel’s involvement. The Central Bureau of Investigation has also not yet come up with anything concrete against him. The CBI has sent letters rogatory to various countries seeking information on suspicious transactions routed through tax havens, including Liechtenstein, British Virgin Islands and even Belize, a Central American country. The ED may also contact German authorities for some details.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the 52-year-old agent, who has been operating from Dubai since 2005, has business interests in at least one company based in Gujarat. He shifted out of the United Kingdom after the Insolvency Agency in 2004 banned him from holding an influential position in any business after one of his firms — Entera Corporation — went bankrupt.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 9:47:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ed-probing-british-nationals-role-in-vvip-chopper-deal/article6469366.ece

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