According to news reports, AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal middleman Christian Michel spent Rs.330 crores to ‘manage the media’. AgustaWestland paid him a sum of 330 crores to manage various aspects of the deal. The management includes paperwork, managing regulatory authorities, and the media in India. Michel’s main job was to give feedback on the media activities related to the AgustaWestland deal. His meetings with some media persons are under scanner as well.
Under the AgustaWestland chopper deal, India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by Italian defence manufacturing company- Finmeccanica- at an estimated cost of Rs 3,600 crore. Out of these 12 choppers, 8 had to be allotted to the VIPs-the Prime Minister, President of India and other ministers. The helicopters were for the “Communication Squadron of the Indian Air Force”.
According to the pgurus report, the AgustaWestland chopper manufacturer Finmeccanica and Michel’s company Global Services FZE of Dubai had signed a post-service contract after the controversial purchase of 12 VVIP choppers on 1 March 2010. According to the contract, Finmeccanica promised to pay €275,000 to Michel’s company for a period of 22 months starting from January 2010 onwards. The important thing to note here is that VVIP chopper deal was inked in 2009 and in the very next year, Michel was paid to carry out covert PR exercise in favour of the deal. Interestingly, not even a single article was published in criticism of the deal by the Indian media during the period of the contract. The Indian media began writing about the deal only in 2013 after the arrest of Finmeccanica Chief Orsi by Italian investigation agencies. Three of the twelve AW101 helicopters that the Air Force had ordered were already delivered when the arrests took place in Italy. The then defense minister AK Anthony ordered a probe into the charges that the Italian investigators made, and the deal was subsequently scrapped in 2014. The AgustaWestland scam revealed the involvement of the UPA’s top brass. The CBI also arrested former Indian Air Force Chief S.P. Tyagi along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan in AgustaWestland case.
According to the agreement signed between Finmeccanica and Michel’s firm, Michel’s job was to:
- To find out and apprise the company of any negative press coverage that may have negative effects on the execution of the contract.
- Help the company in mitigating the impact of any negative media coverage.
- Carry out PR exercise in favor of the deal.
- Provide feedback to the company with everyday feedback on press activity with respect to the deal.
So far, only one journalist Raju Santhanam has admitted that he had accepted favours from Michel. According to media reports, controversial arms dealer, Abhishek Verma did the groundwork for Michel in tackling the pliable journalists of Lutyens’ media in Delhi.
Later on, in ED’s inquiry, Michel’s involvement in other defence deals also came out. Among the big revelations in the remand paper submitted by the ED, there was the claim that it is investigating the modus operandi adopted by Christian Michel to eliminate TATA and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) from competition in an Italian deal.
For more details: Besides AgustaWestland, Christian Michel influenced other defense deals too: ED
According to media reports, Michel and Guido Haschke, these two middlemen were also involved in lobbying for Eurofighter, the main competitor of Rafale fighter jets to get the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal. A ‘strategy paper’ seized from the office of Guido Haschke mentions that both middlemen worked on a plan to win the fighter aircraft deal for Eurofighter.
For more details: Christian Michel’s revelation sheds light on why the Congress is opposing Rafale deal
Given the latest revelation by Christian Michel, it has become very apparent why the Congress party and its leaders are hell bent on defaming the Rafale deal. It also explains why Lutyens’ media is trying hard to prove that the Rafale deal was a scam despite every allegation being bunked. Moreover, there are various reasons for the media to be apprehensive about the Rafale deal. First, they have not received any favours this time, secondly, middlemen in defence deals who are close to ‘family’ have become the thing of past and at last, family’s interests have not been served in the Rafale deal.
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