Here’s the most interesting details, including a total payment of 44 million euros (around Rs 330 crore at today’s exchange rates), of the most mysterious character in the VVIP chopper deal, which now has Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress hurling accusations at each other.
Christian Michel, a British businessman, was paid millions of dollars by AgustaWestland.
A large portion of the money paid by AgustaWestland to Michel is “completely disproportionate” to the work he did for the company — that’s how the Milan Court of Appeals describes a man Indian investigators have been seeking. Interpol issued a red corner notice against Michel on India’s request in December 2015.
Italian prosecutors had argued that Michel and Guido Hashke, a Swiss-Italian national, worked together to influence Indian officials to pick Agusta’s choppers. Michel got plenty of attention in the court judgement, although Italian authorities had not cross-examined him.
The court, which has held that the Agusta sale involved corruption, has devoted a full chapter to Michel in its judgement. Italian prosecutors alleged Michel was a key player in the VVIP chopper deal. Michel could not be contacted by ET. He had earlier issued statements on his willingness to cooperate with investigators in return for immunity from prosecution.
The Milan court has noted that Michel was paid over 44 million euros by AgustaWestland for various contracts, which included a deal to supply spare parts for Indian naval helicopters and a post-contract service deal for the VVIP chopper contract.
The judgement said the description of his work for the contracts — which included a 6 million euro post-service contract for VVIP choppers — was “vague” and “completely disproportionate to the large amount of fees paid to him”.
Michel had a 18.2 million euro contract to buy back discarded WG 30 choppers from India, a 6 million euro deal for servicing VVIP choppers and a 12 million euro contract to supply spares and parts for naval choppers.
The court said the servicing contract awarded by Agusta to Michel cannot be fully explained. “With respect to the ‘postcontract award service agreement’, the defence tried to enhance its relevance but it is sufficient to mention the results of investigations — even internal — which found that, against the large consideration agreed (euros 6,050,0000 total), it has produced only some periodic ‘reports’ (moreover, ‘of poor quality’) while none of the other commitments expected from the contract appears to have been fulfilled…”
The court noted that an internal assessment of the group by PwC London had also raised doubts on these contracts.
The judgement notes: “The doubts of the external auditors pertained to the opacity of the transaction (to buy back choppers), which it was suspected was hiding prohibited consultancies under the ‘Integrity Pact’, while about the second they had asked for clarification about its validity, since it was about Michel’s companies’ assistance in the phase of aircraft delivery, but although the aircraft had not yet been delivered (they would be only at the beginning of 2013) the payments had already begun”.