New Delhi, April 30: The CBI is now probing the visits made by AgustaWestland middleman James Christian Michel who is said to have set aside a sum of Rs 48 crore to manage the Indian media. Out of the entire payment of Rs 330 crore given to him, he had earmarked Rs 48 crore to manage the media.
The alleged payouts to the media are under the scanner of the CBI. Further the CBI is also probing why he found the need to visit India nearly 300 times between 1997 and 2013. Michel against whom a non bailable warrant and Interpol Red Corner alert has been issued had visited India 300 times between 1997 and 2013. The information was obtained by the Enforcement Directorate from the immigration. During most of his visits, he has cited pilgrimage as the reason for his visit.
The reason behind these visits is currently under probe. He had a connection with India since 1997, the CBI says. It has been discovered that the ground work for the AgustaWestland deal was laid in 2004 itself. His visits prior to 2004 are also under the scanner of the CBI.
The ED has attempted to get in touch with him several times, but he always managed to dodge the agency. He tried putting forth his view through interviews in the media. It was all done with an intention of misguiding the investigations, the ED officer says.
We had given him ample opportunities to present his case, but he never made himself available. He completely went off the radar post 2013, ED officials say. An extradition request from the UK has now been made by the Indian government.
In addition to this the CBI is also probing all his interactions with the media. Michel was assigned the task of managing the media.
His job was to report about negative coverage about the deal and also ensure that the narrative in the media swings in the favour of AgustaWestland. How much did he manage to influence the 20 journalists under the scanner of the CBI is also part of the probe.