AgustaWestland: Finmeccanica's junket for journalists back on CBI scanner

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New Delhi, Apr 29: Several journalists are under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the AgustaWestland case.

The CBI and the ED plan on questioning these journalists to unearth more clues on the money trail and also their relationship with James Christian Michel who was tasked with handling the media.

AgustaWestland: Journos under scanner

There are a few journalists on our radar, a CBI official informed. A team was in fact taken on a junket to Italy by Finmeccanica the firm which produces the AgustaWestland chopper. It was a fully paid trip.

Further some journalists may have received kickbacks to change the narrative and also hand over information to Michel on what story would be playing out on the deal.

Under the radar:

The CBI official says that they will question some of these journalists as part of the investigation. There was a group of journalists who were taken to Italy in 2013 on a junket. This was arranged by Michel, the CBI also says.

Further there were some who had passed on information on the type of story that would run on the deal and we are looking to question them to find out about their intent.

Read More: Corruption main issue in AgustaWestland: Defence ministry

The journalists who were in touch with Michel will help unearth more information relating to the case. Michel was paid a sum of Rs 330 crore by AgustaWestland to manage the media The CBI had got a red corner notice issued against Michel. We are planning on seeking his extradition, the CBI says.

Who is James Christian Michel?

Michel was a middleman hired by AgustaWestland. His main job was to keep an eye on the media in India and report the narrative regarding the deal to AgustaWestland. He is an important player in this case, the CBI says.

We have some evidence on him which includes the reports he sent out and also the meetings he held with some people in the media, officials also add.

Read More: What is AgustaWestland chopper scam & how Sonia Gandhi's name got involved in it?

An amount of Rs 330 crore was paid to him for managing various services. He received these amounts in part payments at United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands and also Tunisia. In addition to his links with the media, the CBI has also found that he had several assets (benami) in India.

A bungalow in Delhi and a luxury car is what the CBI has found and officials say that he had purchased this in a benami name. We are on the trail to find out more such assets in India, the CBI officer also informed.

While his meetings with several persons are under the scanner, the CBI has learnt that it was through his company Global Services FZE all his activities were managed. Through this company he managed to keep an eye on the media reports where this deal was concerned. If there was any negative press on the deal, Michel was meant to fix it, the CBI officials also say.

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