AgustaWestland: The con and the man

The Untold Story... carries an interesting and different insight into the scam


As Delhi becomes the battleground for Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case who is lodged in Tihar jail for sometime, The Untold Story of Christian Michel and AgustaWestland by veteran journalist Raju Santhanam carries an interesting and different insight into the biggest corruption scandal, including Michel's so called battle for justice.

So far, different versions of Michel’s confessions to the Indian agencies have surfaced in the media as a telltale story of his alleged political connections with the Congress top brass and even his alleged disclosures of the bribery trail. But Santhanan's book, a non-fiction, contains a riveting first hand account of the man who is in the middle of the alleged scam. “There were times Michel was bitter, on other occasions even melancholic, though his narrative always had a passionate intensity,” writes Santhanam whose conversations with Michel span a number of years.

“It was difficult to keep pace with his enthusiasm. In the gathering darkness, he would somehow see a bright light, convinced that the truth would eventually prevail.'' Santhanam’s accounts leave one wondering whether Michel still sees the bright light behind the dark walls of Tihar jail.

Santhanam knows Michel too well as he got acquainted with him while on a quest to write a book on his father, the late Wolfgang Max Richard Michel alias Wally Michel, a mysterious figure. Unlike his father who remains a mystery, Santhanam writes that Michel has not been quiet at any point of time. ''Whenever he got the opportunity, he would be on television,'' he says.

For those who have not followed the biggest scam in recent times, which has been compared to the Bofors scandal, Santhanam's Untold Story pieces together facts, figures, documents and sequence of events to narrate the story of the scandal that first broke out in Italy and later became a raging storm in India. The role of coteries in India's power politics also forms a major portion of the book for those who may want to read more than just about the Agustawestland case. How active was the coterie during the UPA government, who pushed the Agustawestland deal, rumours of the involvement of the Gandhi clan and how images of honesty and integrity can suddenly become questionable makes for a gripping read at a time when Michel's case continues to leave questions unanswered for both the investigating agencies as well as the readers.

Has Santhanam been able to dig out the truth from the dust and heat of leaks, insinuations and wild interpretations, the book will be able to tell better. Santhanam has spent forty years in journalism—in print and television—and is currently focused on research based projects that have a global impact on international audience.

Vappala Balachandran, a former special secretary in the cabinet secretariat aptly sums up the importance of the case through the prism of the book as he writes in his foreword that the AgustaWestland deal, though an arms contract, has engaged prime attention in the country after the NDA government chose to give more importance to Michel’s extradition by sending a special aircraft to ferry him to the country.

Book: The Untold Story of Christian Michel and AgustaWestland

Author : Raju Santhanam

Publisher : Roli Books

Price :Rs 350