The change in the media narrative where the AgustaWestland case is concerned is one of the many angles that is being probed by the CBI. Earmarked Rs 50 crore to manage the media, the CBI will get its answers from James Christian Michel an alleged middleman for AgustaWestland.
Over the past few days he has been seen on television handing out interviews. As strange as it may sound the man marked a fugitive by India has over the past couple of days made himself quite accessible. The CBI says that in this entire case, a select section of the media played a crucial role. The evidence against these media personnel will be circumstantial in nature, the CBI says.
There were a couple of publications and a blog which were aware seven months in advance that the deal would be through. While there is no harm in journalists knowing in advance about a decision, there were others who ensured that the narrative was changed.
While the Indian Express continued to put out the best stories regarding this scam there was another section which always ran a counter narrative to what was being said. This the agencies find was quite suspect. Several stories which praised AgustaWestland are also under the scanner.
The CBI says that it is not trying to indicate that anyone who wrote pro Agusta articles are accused. However these persons would help the CBI understand the role of Michel who was specifically told to manage the media.
The money trail leading up to journalists would be a hard one to track. There are two specific cases which indicate a money trail. As per some of the diary entries, the middlemen had claimed that they had spent Rs 28 lakh on a journalist and his wife who went on a junket. While a chunk of the money earmarked for the media was spent on a junket to Italy, the investigators are trying to find out another trail of Rs 5 crore which could have been paid as kickbacks to a senior journalist in Delhi.