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VVIP chopper scandal: CBI names accused-turned-approver Rajiv Saxena & middleman Christian Michel in fresh charge sheet

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on Saturday, filed its supplementary charge sheet in the Rs 3,600 VVIP chopper scandal.

The agency has charge sheeted over two dozen accused in its supplementary charge sheet which puts a spotlight on the alleged kickbacks received via middlemen and the individuals and entities deployed to route the kickbacks for VVIPs to allegedly swing the chopper deal in favour of M/s AgustaWestland, said people in the know.

Significantly, the agency has charge-sheeted accused-turned-approver Rajiv Saxena in its latest charge sheet. Besides Saxena, CBI has also charge sheeted Christian Michel James, alleged middleman.

This is the first charge sheet by CBI which elaborates in detail the alleged role of Michel in receiving and transferring alleged kickbacks through a web of companies for alleged beneficiaries which include bureaucrats and politicians. No politician, however, has been charge sheeted so far by the agency.

A few foreign and Indian entities allegedly used by Rajiv Saxena and Christian Michel in “moving” the alleged kickbacks have been charged by the CBI.

It is pertinent to mention here that the agency has gone ahead and filed its charge sheet without awaiting the prosecution sanction sought against former bureaucrat and defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and four other IAF officials. People quoted above said that CBI will file a charge sheet against the five after it receives a prosecution sanction from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and Ministry of Defence.

Besides Sharma, the agency in March had government sanction to prosecute former Air Vice Marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar, former deputy chief test pilot SA Kunte, Wing Commander Thomas Mathew and Group Captain N Santosh. Their sanction is yet awaited.

It might be mentioned here that charge -sheeting Rajiv Saxena by the CBI assumes significance. Last year in March Saxena, after being brought from Dubai, was accorded the approver status. Months later (in October 2019), ED had moved the Court seeking revocation of the approver status citing concealment of facts by Saxena.

As first reported by ET in June, it was the CBI which had informed about the dossier and “evidence” against Saxena .

Documents received through a Letter Rogatory from Mauritius contained one titled “Consent to act as Director” of M/s Interstellar Technologies Ltd, dated June 20, 2000, bearing Saxena’s signatures.

When questioned about the same in February last year, Saxena denied knowledge, claiming that the document had been misused by Gautam Khaitan (lawyer and co-accused). Investigation and information from CBI, however, revealed to the ED that the signatures belonged to Saxena.

Saxena is alleged to have operated Interstellar, a company alleged to have received proceeds of crime worth 12.4 million euros which were routed for “payment of bribes” to influential people, including politicians and bureaucrats in India to tilt the VVIP chopper deal in favour of M/s AgustaWestland.

The middleman in the deal, Christian Michel James, also allegedly routed bribe money to a company through Interstellar.

In its charge sheet filed in September 2017, the CBI had alleged that the scandal had caused a “wrongful loss” of 398.21 million euros to the government.

Prior to the current charge sheet filed on Saturday in all, nine individuals — four Indians and five foreigners — had so far been charged. Besides the former air force chief Tyagi and his cousins, they included alleged European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Michel James and Guido Haschke, former AgustaWestland chief executive Bruno Spagnolini and former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi.

AgustaWestland was a subsidiary of Italy’s Finmeccanica.

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