In a major breakthrough in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday attached property worth Rs 5.83 crore in Paris. The assets reportedly belong to alleged middleman Christian Michel's ex-wife Valerie Michel.
The ED said in a statement that the agency has provisionally attached immovable property in France in the name of M/s SCI Solaime situated at 45 Avenue Victor Hugo, Paris belonging to Michel's ex-wife. The ED claimed that she had received proceeds of crime from Michel.
As per the agency, Michel had transferred the amount received as kickbacks to various entities, including 922,185.76 euros equivalent to Rs 5.83 crore to his ex-wife Valerie Michel and subsequently to M/s SCI Solaime for investment in purchase of the attached immovable property.
"Investigation revealed that Christian Michel James is a middleman who received kickbacks from the VVIP Chopper deal to the tune of 42 million euros. During the course of investigation, it was seen that funds were transferred from Dubai-based companies to various entities," a report by India Today quoted the ED.
Michel, who was arrested in the UAE and then extradited to India in December 2018, is among the three alleged middlemen being probed by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002. The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.
British national Christian James Michel is currently lodged in the Tihar Jail after his judicial custody ended on February 27.
The ED is also expected to record Michel's statement tomorrow inside Tihar Jail, who has recently been shifted to a high-security ward because of threat perception against him in the wake of the Pulwama attack.
The key issues being investigated by the ED include the modus operandi adopted by the accused to eliminate TATA and HAL from competition in an Italian deal and the steps undertaken to mask the present deal as a British deal, instead of an Italian deal, to gain advantage in Light Observation Helicopters.
The ED, in its charge-sheet against Michel filed in June 2016, had alleged that he had received 30 million euros -- about Rs 225 crore -- from AgustaWestland.
The CBI, in its charge-sheet, has alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.
Edited by Chitranjan Kumar