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AgustaWestland: Christian Michel arms govt by confirming ‘Signora Sonia’ note

When Rahul Gandhi made a one-line statement claiming, “I am always being targeted, happy to be targeted”, without stopping or slowing his hurried walk inside Parliament, he would not have anticipated that only hours later Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos, the lawyer of Christian Michel, the middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam — now a wanted criminal in India — would appear live on Times Now. Or that she would accept that her client had written a note naming Sonia Gandhi and describing her as ‘driving force’ behind the deal.

This has hit Congress where it could hurt it most.

Michel’s lawyer’s admission came at a time when the party is doing everything in its command to deflect the heat from its Sonia Gandhi‘s alleged involvement in the deal. This is additional ammunition for Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar when he rises to make a statement on the AgustaWestland scam on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha.

The problem for the Congress and its first family is that the continuing revelations have cast a shadow on Rahul as well. BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has linked the family of Rahul’s aide Kanishka Singh with the other middleman Guido Ralph Haschke. Singh has denied the charge but Somaiya has made some fresh charges against Rahul Gandhi — of buying two shops in MGF Metropolitan Mall, Saket. And although Rahul owning a shop in that mall, or leasing it to MGF and finally selling it to MGF for profit does not have any direct connection with Choppergate per se, it does suggest that Haschke had his ways around the corridors of power in Delhi.

Somaiya tweeted:

MGF is part of Emaar MGF and in September 2009, the company appointed Haschke and Gautam Khaitan as directors on its board. The same company had built the Commonwealth Games villages in New Delhi and hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons with the Union Urban Development Ministry and the Delhi Development Authority going out of the way to sweeten the deal for Emaar MGF.

This coupled with the revelations that the then defence minister AK Antony approved the blacklisting of AgustaWestland only on 12 May, 2014 — after it had become certain that the Congress was about to lose power at the Centre with the last phase of poling done and exit polls indicating that the Narendra Modi-led BJP was way ahead — will add to the Congress’ discomfort. The order banning procurement was finally issued on 3 July, 2014 by then defence minister Arun Jaitley.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The other question that the Congress will have to answer is why the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) virtually slept on the files for over one year, from March 2013 when the FIR was registered till May 2014 — the time the UPA government was ousted.

The Congress had so far been claiming that the Manmohan Singh government had blacklisted AgustaWestland, ordered a CBI, ED inquiry and it is the Modi government that should be blamed for inaction on the issue. Unfortunately for the Congress, after each of their claims, evidence has emerged that the party was consciously indulging in speaking half-truths or plain lies.

Patrizi’s stating, “I know about that note” in response to a query about the veracity of the note sent by Michel to Peter Hullet, who then helmed India operations of AgustaWestland, will have a damning effect on the Congress party because her statement negates the Congress’ claims about the authenticity of the unsigned note.

When Parrikar speaks in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress benches may have to deal with some moments of deep discomfort.

The former prime minister and former defence minister should be present in the House. However, it remains to be seen whether the Congress will allow Parrikar to make his full statement, also how Singh and Antony, if at all, counter him.

Three days ago, Parrikar on his part had made clear what he intends to do in Parliament.

“I will place the detailed chronology, giving facts about the chopper deal before Parliament on Wednesday. I will place the detailed chronology, giving how and when necessary clauses or provisions were relaxed to suit the companies. Those who received kickbacks will not leave behind the proof for us to prosecute them, but we will have to prove it (that kickbacks were received).Why no action was taken against the company till 2014? Why was the company not blacklisted by then UPA government? I challenge the Congress to show the UPA government’s order blacklisting the AgustaWestland company. Let them reply first why it was not banned.”

As for middleman Michel offer’s to turn approver (made by his lawyer to Times Now on Tuesday night and denied later by Michel a little while later) with certain conditions attached that he would not be arrested, treated wrongly and so on, the government has already clarified that there would be no deal with him.

“It is well known that any understanding/agreement with an accused outside the frame of law is a criminal act in itself. James Christian Michael is a criminal wanted by the Indian law enforcement agencies. We are pursuing all legal means to arrest him and have him extradited to India. Mr Michel should submit himself to the Indian legal system rather than make elliptical references to offers that are suspect in intent and reality. We are determined that the law must take its course against Mr Michel and his associates in this matter,” the government said.

VVIP chopper scam: Emaar MGF refutes BJP’s charges, says has no business links with Rahul Gandhi’s aide Kanishka

Seeking to distance itself from the AgustaWestland row, realty firm Emaar MGF on Tuesday said it has no “business links” with Rahul Gandhi’s aide Kanishka Singh while Guido Haschke — alleged middleman in the controversial chopper deal — was an independent director for an “extremely brief period”.As BJP MP Kirit Somaiya dragged Singh’s name into the controversy involving alleged kickbacks paid for the VVIP chopper deal, Emaar MGF termed the allegations as “baseless and incorrect.” <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Emaar MGF, whose name has earlier cropped up in some other controversies as well including about the Commonwealth Games, is a joint venture between Dubai-based Emaar Properties and India’s MGF Developments Ltd. “We would further like to state that Mr Kanishka Singh has never had any direct or indirect business interest, including as a shareholder and/or promoter and/or Director, in Emaar MGF,” the company said.Clarifying on allegations that Singh being related to the family of Indian promoter in the Emaar MGF, the company said, “the Indian promoter of Emaar MFG in 2007 had already separated from their earlier family businesses and have no linkages to the same thereafter.”On the company’s association with Guido R Haschke, Emaar MGF said that Haschke was an independent non-executive director for an extremely brief period of two months and twelve days only i.e. from September 25 to December 7 in 2009. “Emaar MGF has had no other association with him or any of his businesses/associates,” the statement added. Haschke was appointed on the company’s board, alongwith other Independent Directors, due to the statutory requirement of having equal number of independent directors on the Board (in our case 6) to be eligible for a public listing.Justifying appointment of Haschke on its board, Emaar MGF said that Haschke was a registered consultant to the World Bank for Asset Trading and Debt Restructuring and was appointed considering his experience with international financial sector. “It may be pertinent to point out that he did not attend any Board meeting during his tenure of his appointment. The company or its associates have had no business or monetary dealings with Mr Guido Haschke in any manner at any time in the past or present except his brief appointment as independent director as stated above,” the statement said.