AgustaWestland: Patel, Gupta, Pubby, Santhanam indicted

While the Congress is silent on the alleged Ahmed Patel link in AgustaWestland deal, The Indian Express has offered a lame defence of Gupta and Pubby


New Delhi: In the charge sheet in the case of the alleged scam in AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has named the Indian National Congress’s Ahmed Patel and journalists Raju Santhanam, Manu Pubby and Shekhar Gupta.

Congress, Ahmed Patel indicted in AgustaWestland case

AgustaWestlandThe AgustaWestland case charge sheet has Michel admitting that “FAM” in his scribbled notes referred to “family” and “AP” mentioned in those scraps was Ahmed Patel, chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s close aide.

“The Defence Minister is 100% behind us. On 24th August, the final CCS note was presented to the Defence Minister.”

“It is an excellent note. It was circulated to the Council of Ministers who have agreed to clear it at the next CCS, and the PM has demonstrated to Hillary that he did intervene, but (the) rule of Government let it go through,” reads a note.

Journalists ‘influenced’ public opinion

Middleman Christian Michel, extradited recently from the UAE, made payments to these journalists and hired services of Guy Douglas to influence the media and tone down articles in The Indian Express, the ED has charged.

British national and middleman of the scrapped deal Christian Michel had allegedly roped in some famous scribes in order to mould public opinion on the increasingly corruption-ravaged government of the time.

Michel, lodged in the Tihar Jail, is among the main accused in the VVIP chopper case. The ED charge sheet has cited the money trail of Michel leading up to Raju Santhanam who was, ironically, once regarded as an anti-corruption crusader who had to lose his job due to a covert operation in the factory of a leading company.

“As per (the) Casana sheet, a payment of £ 205,860.40 was made to Ashwin Santhanam, son of Raju Santhanam, in addition to booking an air ticket for him and his family for a total amount of Rs 26.50 lakh,” the ED charge sheet says.

Brokers Michel, Guido Haschke and his associate Carlo Gerosa made payments, according to the ED, to defence officials, bureaucrats and political leaders of the Congress.

In total, £ 70 million was allegedly paid in bribe in two parts to leaders.

Michel has confessed to making these payments. The arms broker admitted to hiring Guy Douglas to create a concocted media narrative on the scandal.

At that point of time, Manu Pubby and Shekhar Gupta were employed with The Indian Express. They were asked “to tone down their articles in The Indian Express”, said a source.

Indian Express’s defence

In its defence, the said newspaper has carried a report claiming it was at the forefront of exposing the brokers in the deal and inquired how it could be a part of the helicopter deal.

The Express report goes, “The charge sheet quotes Michel: ‘I engaged a full-time press adviser Guy Douglas to have at least our side reported. The most aggressive journalist was Manu Pubby (then with The Indian Express)…Guy Douglas’s first task was to meet Manu Pubby and see if he was willing to listen to our side of the story.’

“It was a series of investigative reports by Pubby in The Indian Express in 2012-13 that first brought the alleged irregularities in the AgustaWestland deal into the public domain. These prompted a that led to the cancellation in 2014.”

The Indian Express was the first to report on the network of firms used to allegedly route the bribe money to India. Indeed, the first report on Christian Michel and his deep historic links in India was reported by The Indian Express,” says the paper.

But the allegation is not that the said journalists never exposed the AgustaWestland scam. It is that they were asked to “tone down” their attack on the allegedly corrupt deal. The Indian Express report does not clarify what Manu Pubby and Shekhar Gupta did following the request by the arms dealers and middlemen.

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