Christian Michel is one of the three alleged middlemen extradited on Tuesday

New Delhi: As the CBI began questioning Christian Michel today on allegations of bribes in the VVIP chopper deal, the alleged middleman will be asked about the alleged payoffs that he made as a consultant to chopper maker AgustaWestland. NDTV has accessed the judgement of the Milan Court of Appeals, which gives us greater insight into what the agencies are hoping to extract from the 57-year-old Briton extradited by Dubai on Tuesday.

Christian Michel is one of the three alleged middlemen who are accused of organising bribes for Indian decision-makers - politicians and bureaucrats - to help Agusta snag the contract.

The Milan judgement refers to a document obtained by Swiss authorities, which reveal alleged payoffs of 22,000 Euros made to "the fam" or family.

The document the Swiss received legally, says the payment was made to "the family" in two transactions of 11,000 each over two months.

This is the first documented acknowledgement of the actual amount paid to "the family". The document quotes a letter from Christian Michel to another middleman, Guido Hashke, which says the payment was for "compensation."

But curiously, there is no confirmation from the entire judgement or documents on which "family" it is.

Already the subject of a major political row in the country in election season, with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicating that the "family" is the Gandhi family, sources in the Italian prosecution had told NDTV that it is likely a reference to the other accused in the case - former Air Chief SP Tyagi and his cousins Sandeep, Julie and Tocsa Tyagi - on whose request he allegedly tweaked chopper specs to help Agusta win the contract.

The BJP alleges that the initials "AP" in the document stand for "Ahmed Patel". When Hashke was asked about the acronym he told the Italian court "I do not know what it means".

Haschke also said, according to the Milan judgement, that "fam" means "family" and "bur" means "bureaucrats". But he didn't elaborate.

When NDTV asked the CBI, officials confirmed these would be details they would be asking Christian Michel during his questioning.

It is not clear what evidence the CBI has against not just Christian Michel but any of the accused in the case. In January, when the Milan Court of Appeals confirmed the acquittal of those accused in Italy, it held that the entire case was baseless because of various reasons including "alleged corruptive conduct with Christian Michel not being established."

The Milan court said the main allegation against former Air Chief Tyagi was to change the specification of the VVIP chopper tender from 6,000 metres to 4,500 meters. But the court held this was changed before SP Tyagi became Air Chief. The court also said "no confessional statements" were made and no money link was found to public officials at all.

The CBI says Christian Michel "impacted" the deal. However, the first meeting that Christian Michel had on this was in September 2006, after the specifications were changed. The Milan court concluded "no role could be ascribed to intervention attributable to Michel." So will the Indian courts succeed where the Italian prosecutors failed?

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