BY ANAND SINGH
New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) British national Christian James Michel, who is suspected of being one of the middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case, had allegedly bought air tickets worth Rs 92 lakh for two Indian Air Force officers between 2009 to 2013, the CBI claimed in its supplementary charge sheet.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also alleged that Michel invested Rs 6.3 crore in Media Exim Pvt Ltd from 2005 to 2007 in 10 instalments, which was formed with a Delhi-based businessman for the export of music CDs.
According to the over 12,000 page supplementary charge sheet, which was filed in a Delhi court last month, and has been viewed by IANS, the money was sent to Media Exim Pvt Ltd floated by Delhi-based businessman Ramesh Kumar Nanda in November 2005 for the export of music CDs and jewelry.
Nanda, in his statement to CBI, said that he was introduced to Michel by his friend Sethuraman (now deceased), who asked him to do business with the British national.
Nanda, now a prosecution witness, said: “Michel sent Rs 6.33 crore in 10 instalments in the HSBC and Citibank bank accounts of the company from October 2005 to April 2007.”
He also said that this money was subsequently returned to Michel in 2008 and 2012 in two transactions as no business could be carried out by the company since the Reserve Bank of India did not give approval for the foreign investment.
Nanda claimed that after the money was received in 2008, the company invested this money in purchase of five properties in Delhi and Gurugram – a flat in Safdarjung Enclave purchased for Rs 54 lakh in 2005, a Rs 1 crore farmhouse in Satbari, a flat valued at Rs 2.6 crore in Ishwar Nagar and a plot for Rs 76 lakh in Gurugram.
According to Nanda, some of the properties were sold while some were put on rent.
“The farmhouse at Satbari Ansal Farm Villas was given to Michel for his residential purposes and this he paid a rent of Rs 1 lakh plus security charges through banking channels. Michel sometimes also used to stay in the Safdarjung Enclave flat bought by Media Exim Pvt Ltd,” he said.
Nanda further revealed that Michel also booked “tickets” worth Rs 9 crore and the money was paid through his Global Services FZE, Dubai.
Tickets worth Rs 1.6 crore were booked by Supreme Airways out of the funds received from Global Services FZE of Michel in the account of Media Exim Pvt Ltd. “This was done to adjust the amount paid by him and the amount refunded to him due to non-approval of the RBI,” Nanda stated.
Nanda also claimed that since the money was lying for 4 years and “as we were earning out of the investment made using that money, it was our moral obligation to extend the benefit of the same to Michel”.
“Since we could not pay interest to Michel’s company, we complied with our obligation by booking tickets for that amount,” he stated.
Nanda also stated that on the instructions of Michel, tickets were booked in the name of Gautam Nayaar and Sashi Bhushan Sharma, who were Indian Air Force officers, as well as their family members.
“Tickets were booked for them on a number of instances on the directions of Michel. Tickets worth Rs 21.94 lakh were booked for Sharma and his family members between 2009 to 2012 while tickets worth Rs 43.33 lakh were booked for Nayaar and his family members during the same period,” Nanda said.
In 2013, tickets worth Rs 11.43 lakh were booked for Sharma and his family members while tickets worth Rs 16.02 lakh were booked for Nayaar and his family members.
“I believe that the tickets were booked for these two officers while they were serving as well as after their retirement,” Nanda added.
Michel is currently lodged in Tihar jail in Delhi after he was extradited to India in December 2018.
On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.
The CBI had earlier filed a charge sheet in this case on September 1, 2017 against then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and 11 other accused.
In its first charge sheet, the 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.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)