As ED Takes Name of 'Mrs Gandhi', BJP, Congress Spar Over AgustaWestland Probe

The Enforcement Directorate told a Delhi court that the alleged middleman, Christian Michel, had sought to pass on to his lawyer a list of questions about 'Mrs Gandhi' that the agency intended to ask.

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate’s statement before a local court here on Saturday that Christian Michel – an alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal – had sought to pass on to his lawyer a list of questions that the agency was asking him about ‘Mrs Gandhi’ touched off a war of words between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

According to The Hindu, the ED informed the court that when a medical team had come to conduct a mandatory check-up on Michel on August 27, he used the occasion to quietly slip a note to his lawyer, Aljo Joseph.

“A deputy director of the agency, who had been recording Michel’s statement, noticed the incident and asked Joseph to give the piece of paper back.

“The ED officials found that the paper had a list of follow-up questions that were yet to be posed to Michel on ‘Mrs. Gandhi’. “The paper was lying on a table in the same room, which he managed to get hold of and handed over to the counsel,” said an official. The questions are based on the documents gathered by the ED during the probe so far.”

The BJP on Saturday seized on ED’s statement in court to hit out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi. Union law minister Ravi ShankarPrasad said that “today is the time for the Gandhi family to explain” following the ED’s statement in court.

The Congress has rejected the charge, saying the central government has been using agencies to implicate the Gandhi family.

The Rs 3,600 crore deal for the procuring of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland signed in 2010 is mired in controversy because of allegations that bribes were paid. The scam was uncovered during the UPA government’s tenure itself and investigated by the CBI.

In a sharp attack, Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters that ED’s account points to one family which, he claimed, has now been caught.

“The ED’s disclosure in the court has made it clear that truth can no longer be suppressed. The truth about the Congress and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul is coming out before the people. The people will give the Congress a befitting reply,” he said.

The country was earlier aware of two words, “family” and “AP”, about the VVIP chopper case but Michel has now taken a few more names by referring to “Mrs Gandhi, big man, son of Italian lady, party leader and R”, Javadekar said.

“He has taken Sonia ji’s name and also given indication about Rahul Gandhi in a chit passed to his lawyer. The raazdaar (one carrying secrets), Michel, is disclosing the involvement of others. Today is the time for the Gandhi family to explain. As far as the Congress is concerned no deal is complete without a deal,” he claimed, using the same term for Michel that Narendra Modi had in some of his campaign speeches during the recent state elections.

The AgustaWestland bomb. Credit: Mika

Javadekar said the UPA government “looted” the county and also compromised with the national security.
“The Congress never finalised a transaction without a middleman. While it is busy in saving the likes of Michel, the Narendra Modi government is working to save the country’s money and bring back what was looted earlier,” he said.

The BJP had accused the Congress of providing lawyers to Michel. The Congress had removed a party functionary after he appeared as a lawyer for the citizen of the United Kingdom.

Javadekar also described the Congress’ attack on the government as a case of  a “thief making noises” and claimed that Michel had also spoken about the public sector firm, HAL, being removed from the contract during the UPA rule.

‘BJP scriptwriters working overtime’

The Congress, on its part, accused the BJP-led Union government of using its agencies to put pressure on  Michel to name the Gandhi family as elections were nearing and it had no real issues.

Congress spokesperson R.P.N. Singh said: “We have seen what the BJP has been doing in this matter. In fact, one of the television channels showed how there is pressure on Christian to name a particular family.”

On the ED’s claim that Michel had spoken about the “son of an Italian lady” and how he was going to become the next prime minister of the country, Singh said, “The BJP scriptwriters are working overtime.”

The Modi dispensation was “trying to pressure government agencies to name a person,” he alleged. “But the person who has done the biggest ‘chori’ [theft] cannot be spared,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)