The custodial statements of British arms agent Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, have revealed about how US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton purportedly took up the VVIP chopper deal with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, leading to a hectic round of lobbying and damage control, reported The Indian Express.
On Saturday, The Indian Express reported that Michel claimed to have lobbied with the Chopper deal then UPA Government when, as he describes it, the deal was “on the edge of the cliff” before it was sealed in 2010. Saturday also marked three years since Michel was extradited from Dubai.
On December 4, 2008, Michel sent the first dispatch to the company which read: “Last week, Sikorsky sent a letter to the Secretary stating that AgustaWestland had been shown undue favoritism and financial compliances have been overlooked. The letter threatened legal action. In short, he (the Sikorsky official) accused the CNC (Contract Negotiation Committee) of being compromised, and with a new Government coming which will investigate all actions.”
On August 28, 2009, Michel sent a dispatch to the company describing the purported intervention by the then US Secretary of State. “On the 19th of July (2009) to the 23rd, Hillary Clinton visited India. She had meetings with the Indian Prime Minister… she raised a point that was not in the agenda (Why is India buying the 101? How can India do it?),” he writes in an apparent reference to AgustaWestland’s AW-101.
To keep “good” India-US bilateral relations as “his legacy,” Michel claims in a fax, the PM “promised to look into it.”
In the dispatches, Michel claims that at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the PM asked all Ministers to raise any questions on the deal to the Defence Ministry — and that they should be answered before the contract file is sent to the committee for a second time.
Michel claims that he and the AgustaWestland team were “stunned” by the “aggressiveness” of the Americans and beefed up the second CCS note. The deal was cleared at the second meeting of the CCS.