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VVIP chopper deal: Michel Senior boasted of shopping with Jagjivan Ram

Michel senior had a consultancy business that his son inherited and there have been previous allegations that he used to hobnob with top Indian politicians and bureaucrats in the 1970s and 80s.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 06, 2018, 07.44 AM IST
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New Delhi: Wolfgang Max Michel, the father of Christian Michel who has been extradited to India for his alleged involvement in the VVIP chopper deal, purportedly boasted of hosting defence minister Jagjivan Ram in 1978 and shopping with his family at Harrods prior to India signing the Jaguar fighter jets deal, according to declassified British documents.

Michel senior had a consultancy business that his son inherited and there have been previous allegations that he used to hobnob with top Indian politicians and bureaucrats in the 1970s and 80s. Declassified UK foreign office documents now show Michel senior claimed that he had lunch with Jagjivan Ram during his visit to London in 1978 and gained confidence that India would sign up on a deal to purchase the Jaguar fighter jets.

The claim, purportedly made in a conversation that Michel senior had with then British deputy high commissioner MK Ewans in New Delhi was recorded and sent to London through diplomatic cable. Ram, who was also then prime minister Morarji Desai’s deputy, allegedly met Michel senior over lunch and subsequently his family shopped at the Harrods on the latter’s account.

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“He had subsequently allowed the family to shop at Harrods on his account for clothing for Jagjivan Ram’s grandchildren and he had been considerably taken aback when he found that the bill amounted to 800 (pounds),” the note dated June 12, 1978, reads. Unearthed by British researcher Nicholas Gilby from the UK national archives, it goes on to say that the impression after the meeting was that the ‘chances for Jaguar were good’ and the matter would be taken up in ‘about two weeks’.

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However, Ram’s family contradicted the claim. Close members said that it was out of question that the minister met Michel senior. “This was an official visit in which the itinerary is carefully planned. It is unthinkable that anyone of his stature would go shopping at Harrods.

The claims are absolutely absurd and untenable,” a close family member told ET when contacted.

For the record, India signed the deal to purchase Jaguar ground attack jets from the UK in October 1978. Jagjivan Ram’s daughter Meira Kumar was employed at the Indian High Commission in London at the same period too.

Kumar was an IFS official before joining politics.

In a press release, the CBI has said that Wolfgang Michel was also a consultant for AgustaWestland, UK, for the Indian region in 1980s and promoted three companies that worked in the market here. Michel junior has been described as a “historical consultant” of the helicopter company who had ‘technical operational knowledge’ of the aircraft, the military bases and pilots.
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