We all have been hearing about the latest revealed scam - The Agusta Westland deal. The deal which has created furor towards Indian Politics as well as it’s crony connection with the section of Indian journalists.
Several journalists are under scanner by CBI and ED (Enforcement Directorate) in connection with this case. It is said that a team of journalists was in fact taken on a junket to Italy by Finmeccanica the firm which produces the Agusta Westland chopper. It was a fully paid trip.
It is also said that media have been heavily bribed to ensure that their narratives did not go against Agusta Westland. James Christian Michel was a middleman hired by Agusta Westland and was paid a staggering sum of a six million euro (Rs 45 crore) for managing media. The CBI has issue a red corner notice against Michel.
In one of the latest revelation that has surfaced, ED has put one of the journalist on scanner who is said to have been part of the junket to Italy. It has been found that this Journalist was part of a major Hindi news channel. ED has alleged that Rs 28 lakh were spent alone on this journalist and his family as per latest report in One India News.
But what exactly is this scam all about? Well, here is a brief explanation of the matter.
In 2010, the Indian government and Agusta Westland S.p.A (wholly owned subsidiary of Finmeccanica S.p.a., today Leonardo - Finmeccanica) signed a Rs 3,546 crores deal to buy 12 AW-101 helicopters for the Indian Air force (IAF).
These helicopters were to replace the ageing Soviet made MI-8 choppers used to transport the President, Prime minister, Vice-president and others VVIPs. The Italian company delivered 3 helicopters by 2013. The remaining nine weren't delivered because India had put the project on hold after the Italian police arrested the head of Finmeccanica SpA, Giuseppe Orsi, in Sept 2013 on charges of paying bribes to win the contract. In 2014, India scrapped the deal.
What has put Congress in trouble is a note written by purported middleman Christian Michel to Peter Hulet (Agusta's then India region sales and liaison head in March 2008) which was produced by the prosecutor in the Italian court. In this note Michel has advised Hulet to target people close to Sonia Gandhi to clinch the 556-million-euro deal. The note indicates payment (bribe) which were divided into 4 parts with initials of "AF" (Air Force) 6 million, "BUR" (Bureaucrats) 8.4 million, "Pol" (Politicians) 6 million and "AP" (alleged to be Ahmed Patel) to be paid 3 million euro. The Milan court has said there was "unmistakable indication of corruption".
But the Congress trouble didn't stop here. One of the letters written by Michel to Peter Hulet reads: "Dear Peter, since Signora Gandhi is the driving force behind the VIP, she will no longer fly with MI8... Signora Gandhi and her closest advisers are at the aim of the High Commissioner…. senior advisor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh obviously the main figure, then there's Ahmed Patel Secretary." This letter gives an indication that Sonia Gandhi and Congress leaders could possibly be involved in this scam.
Initially, the choppers were to have a ceiling requirement (the altitude at which they fly) of 6000 meters, but this was later revised to 4,500 meters. It is accused that this was done to allow Agusta Westland to participate in the project.
In one of the dramatic revelation, Defence Minister - Manohar Parikkar has stated in Rajya Sabha that just within 8 days of the current BJP government coming into power, a mysterious fire had struck the record room of IAF Headquarter. The minister further stated that the record room could possibly have been set on fire with an intention to destroy many of the critical documents associated with the Agusta Westland deal. CBI is investigating on the same.
CBI and ED are investigating this matter. Whatever may be the outcome of the investigation by the agencies, but it is certain that crony relation of Indian media exists with the murky circle of Lutyen’s Delhi is waiting for when the gong to ring and just to be naked them. It is not at least; this scam has just added to the messed up reputation of the earlier Indian government which already carries a burden of a series of scam under their belt.