New Delhi: Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the multi-crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal, has claimed that Italy ‘might do something unpleasant’ if India does not release an Italian marine held in connection with the death of fishermen in 2012.
In an interview to NDTV, Michel has claimed that Italy will reveal a private meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his counterpart Matteo Renzi, in which Modi supposedly asked Renzi for information against Congress President Sonia Gandhi in exchange for releasing the marine.
Both governments have emphatically denied that Modi met with his Italian counterpart in New York on the sidelines of a UN conference. Michel insisted that the meeting did happen, arguing that the governments had only denied a formal bilateral.
"Under the auspices of the UN bilateral discussions there was no meeting. I am talking about a casual brush-by meeting which has plausible deniability attached to it," he said, claiming that an Italian embassy official in Delhi briefed Agusta's parent company Finmeccanica about the meeting, which in turn informed him. But he refused to reveal the name of the embassy official.
Stating that Italy was ‘very upset’ with the Congress for not backing it in the marines case, Michel said that the new government under Modi was stuck in a bad position – because if the PM let the marines go, he would be accused of a deal, and if he didn’t, Italy ‘may do something unpleasant’.
Michel had said on Thursday that he had not personally met either Congress president Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi. “I have to protect the Gandhis to protect myself. I have to prove they are innocent to prove my innocence,” said Michel in an interview to a TV news channel in Dubai.
But Michel confirmed that in 2008 he did describe Gandhi in a letter as “the driving force” behind the decision to acquire new helicopters for use by VVIPs when her party was in power.
He said that he did not personally know either Mrs Gandhi or Mr Rahul Gandhi, and stressed that his written suggestion that diplomats lobby with them did not mean that they had been bribed.
The scandal over kickbacks allegedly paid by Agusta middlemen in India resurfaced last month after an Italian court verdict. The BJP alleged that documents attached to the verdict are proof that Congress leaders helped Agusta swing the deal to provide a dozen choppers for VVIPs in India....