VVIP Chopper Scam: BJP Targets Sonia after Italian Court verdict

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The Defence Ministry has issued a show cause notice to AgustaWestland, asking it to explain within seven days the bribery allegations.

After an Italian court passed a verdict accusing a British businessman James Christian Michel in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal, the BJP has directly pointed its guns towards Sonia Gandhi charging her of being one of the beneficiaries. The BJP has targeted Gandhi and other Congress leaders on the issue of bribes in the AgustaWestland chopper deal during the UPA regime. The top brass of the BJP yesterday met to chalk out a strategy following the Milan Court order that AgustaWestland paid bribes to top Congress leaders to bag the Rs 3,600 crore deal for sale of 12 helicopters to the Defence Ministry.

The Milan court has noted that Michel was paid over 44 million euros by AgustaWestland for various contracts, which included a deal to supply spare parts for Indian naval helicopters and a post-contract service deal for the VVIP chopper contract.

According to reports, Michel sent a major chunk of the bribe money, 30 million euros (over Rs 220 crore) to India for ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi, his cousins and others. The 54-yr-old London-based consultant also made more than 100 trips to India since 1993 and is known to have met many politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen over the years.

The CBI has now asked Interpol to arrest Michel, who lives in the UK, on the basis of a red corner notice issued against him on January 4 so that a formal extradition request can be sent.

Meanwhile, in an interview given to The Hindu, the accused middleman on Tuesday said he had never met Congress president Sonia Gandhi or any other Gandhi in his life.

“I have never ever met any single Gandhi ever in my life… If I had met them you could say well you must have discussed something. Well I haven’t met them. Not a phone call, a letter, a message, a mention of me in a memo,” he said in the interview.