Congress, BJP in war of words over Agusta middleman Michel's 'lawyer'

Highlights

  • BJP alleged that all three lawyers who appeared for Michel in court had links with Congress
  • Countering the charge, the Congress said the BJP linking the party with Michel on the basis of an "expelled lawyer" is a case of the "pot calling the kettle black"


NEW DELHI: The BJP on Thursday accused the Congress of defending Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, while the opposition party hit back, saying it is a case of the "pot calling the kettle black".

Two days after Michel was extradited from Dubai, the BJP said the development has rattled the Congress and that its "extended hand" is defending the alleged middleman to protect "the family", in an obvious reference to the Gandhis.

How a prince & runaway princess helped in 'fixer' Christian Michel's extradition

Christian Michel's extradition from the UAE follows an adverse order of a Dubai court. But Indian intelligence sources claimed "the development could also be seen as linked to India's assistance in tracking Dubai's runaway Princess Latifa". Her lawyers have asked UN to intervene to help secure her release and blamed 'both UAE and India' for her disappearance.


BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said all three lawyers, including Youth Congress functionary Aljo K Joseph + , who appeared for Michel in court, had links with the Congress.

Countering the charge, the Congress said the BJP linking the party with Michel on the basis of an "expelled lawyer" is a case of the "pot calling the kettle black".

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said if the BJP can link his party to Michel on the basis of a lawyer then the ruling party should answer about finance minister Arun Jaitley's family members "taking fees" from PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad representing businessman Subrata Roy and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje giving an affidavit in favour of Lalit Modi in London.

Christian Michel's extradition: CBI could shift focus from Tyagi to bigger players

The CBI getting custody of UK national Christian Michel, who lobbied for arms contracts in India, will create a sense of unease among the alleged “beneficiaries” in the defence ministry who were mentioned in his 2008 handwritten note. According to the note , €30 million were to be distributed among Indian bureaucrats, netas and IAF officials.


He also said the BJP must give an answer on Jaitley representing stock broker Ketan Parekh and giving advice to Dow Chemicals in the Bhopal gas tragedy case in the past.

Joseph appeared as Michel's lawyer on Wednesday, prompting the BJP to attack the opposition party which expelled him within hours.

Patra said the Congress may have expelled him but he remains a lawyer for the accused as "10 Janpath", a reference to the residence of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, wants its own people to be in touch with Michel.

Besides Joseph, one of the lawyers defending Michel is a member of the Congress' youth wing while the father of another is a party member, Patra claimed at a press conference.

"Isn't this too much of a coincidence? Isn't the extended hand of the Congress working to protect the family?" he asked, alleging that it is a clever move by the party to ensure that Michel is protected.

On Patra's allegation that all three lawyers, who appeared for Michel in court, had links with the Congress, Shergill said the other two lawyers, apart from Joseph, were not office bearers of the Indian National Congress Party in any capacity or with any affiliated body.

Meanwhile, the external affairs ministry said it was examining a request by the British High Commission for consular access to Michel.

"We have received a request from the UK High Commission seeking consular access. The matter at this point of time is being examined within the ministry," MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters.

Michel is undergoing interrogation by the CBI, a day after he was sent to a five-day custody of the probe agency.

The BJP has used the extradition of Michel to India to hit out at the Congress as it has often alleged that some leaders of the opposition party were involved in corruption in the VVIP chopper deal.

"The Gandhi family is having sleepless nights following the extradition," Patra said.


"Entire Congress party is out to defend him (Michel)," Patra told reporters, claiming that the opposition party has sent out the message that it was standing like a rock with the accused.


To a question about lawyer kin of some top BJP leaders appearing for those accused of corruption, Patra said that they not only recused themselves but also returned the fee paid to them.


It showed the clean conscience of BJP leaders while the Congress is "married to corruption", he said.


Michel was brought to India from Dubai Tuesday night following his extradition.
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