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NEW DELHI: Arms middleman Christian Michel, who became a familiar name after his name surfaced in the AgustaWestland chopper scam during the UPA’s tenure, was around when the Vajpayee government was in office, and suggested to former Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitly that she could “make a pile of money” for the party, Jaitly has revealed to TOI .
According to Jaitly, she received a call from a foreigner who gave his name as Christian Michel, and agreed to meet him in the lounge of the India International Centre in Delhi. The meeting took place a few days before the Kargil war erupted in May 1999. Samata Party’s George Fernandes was then defence minister in Vajpayee’s coalition government.
Jaitly claims that Michel told her about various defence dealers operating in India and also said they had various bureaucrats “in their pockets”.
According to Jaitly, Michel then blatantly “offered her the opportunity to make a huge pile of money for the party”. Though Michel did not spell out details, Jaitly says she guessed he was offering the money in exchange for a potential favour for one of his clients, a French arms company.
She claims that she said, “We do not do such things”, to which Michel reportedly responded, “How will you run your party?”
Jaitly hastily terminated the conversation and reported it to Fernandes the same evening. According to her, Fernandes advised her to describe the meeting in detail in a letter to the defence secretary, which she did the next day. Thereafter, she says, Michel called her at least half a dozen times to revive the conversation, but she refused to meet him or discuss anything.
Jaitly also says that when the Tehelka allegations (of bribes from alleged arms dealers) erupted in mid-March 2001, she received a fax from Michel, saying, “Dear Mrs Jaitly, I am so sorry about what has happened. I warned you about them. Sincerely, Michel.”
According to her, the next time she heard his name was in connection with the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, in which he and Guido Haschke were named as middlemen by an Italian court.
Jaitly, an activist, author, and Indian handicrafts curator who helped found the famous Dilli Haat craft market, had a chequered political career. She became Samata Party president in January 2000 and resigned in March 2001 following the Tehelka sting operation.
Her autobiography, ‘Life among the Scorpions, Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics’ is slated for release on November 1.