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AgustaWestland deal key middleman Christian Michel yet to be quizzed


Bhupendra Chaubey,CNN-IBN
Feb 18, 2013 at 10:32pm IST

New Delhi: Christian Michel is allegedly the most important link in the tainted AgustaWestland chopper deal. According to the Italian probe report, he was the beneficiary of 60 per cent of Rs 350 crore kickbacks, which means he got Rs 210 crore. He was the one who, according to the Italian probe report, was the second track organised by Finmeccanica ex-CEO Giuseppe Orsi to ensure that the company gets the deal for VVIP choppers. But while the Italians did manage to tap phones and record conversations of other accused middlemen like Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, there is absolutely no information on Michel, other than what the accused themselves state.

Listed below is a record of a conversation between Lorenzo, who was the head of external affairs for Finmeccanica and the public prosecutor in the case. It sheds some light on Michel and his role.

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Lorenzo: "He has done his work and that other, Christian Michel was the one who was put there by Orsi as a guarantee. He says: Look, 50 goes to you and 50 goes to him."

Public Minister: "Briefly, the money goes out from Agusta and goes to Orsi? It goes to Haschke and goes to Michel, from Michel it goes to Orsi?"

Lorenzo: "From Michel, it goes to Orsi but it doesn't stop with Orsi, from Orsi the money goes to political parties that supported him."

The big questions:

- Was Christian Michel sharing his kickbacks with Finmeccannica CEO Orsi?

- Was Christian Michel the front for Finmeccanica to pay off politicians in Italy?

- How is it that the Italian authorities questioned everyone, but didn't even ask for interrogation of Christian Michel, if he was the beneficiary of 60 per cent kickbacks?

More strangely, on the Registrar of Companies (RoC) website in India, there is one Christian Michel, with a DIN number 02657302 whose date of birth is mentioned as December 12, 1961. But any further information is blocked.

But the business empire of Christian Michel appears to be a maze. According to the Italian probe report, Christian Michel controls a company called Global FZE. This company has a UK based subsidiary called Beetle Nut Home Ltd, floated on October 17, 2009. On the board of this subsidiary are two UK citizens of Indian origin, 25-year-old twins, Saahil Parkash Mehra and Sonya Mehra, both inducted just a couple of weeks after the AgustaWestland deal for VVIP choppers was approved on 18 January, 2010.

At the incorporation stage, Beetle Nut Home was managed by a 29-year-old Danish citizen, Cristine Spliid. Spliid started by holding 50 shares. But by October 17, 2010, the Mehra siblings, Sonya and Sahil, end up becoming the majority shareholders holding 100 shares amongst them. By October 2011, when the next annual returns are filed, share pattern changes dramatically -Spliid 20,000, and Sahil siblings 30,000 amongst themselves.

Christian Michel entered the picture under the pseudonym of David Nygel John Syms, acquiring 50,000 shares in this firm, the conclusion being that Dubai-based firm of Christian now held 50 per cent shares in the UK company

Then there is the political connection to Christian Michel. Many old timers say Michel's biggest USP is his proximity to many top players within the Indian political and defence establishement. Something which he inherited from his father, Michel Wolfgang, who too was very close to senior Indian politicians between 1980s and 90s. All indicate that to get to the real beneficiaries of the 60 per cent kickbacks apparently meant for Michel, he needs to be questioned by the Indian authorities.

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