Delhi: Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal, has said that in 2008 he did describe Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a letter as 'the driving force' of the decision to acquire new helicopters when her party was in power.
In an interview to NDTV, Michel also said that he does not personally know either Sonia or her son, Rahul.
However, he maintained that his written suggestion that they be lobbied by diplomats does not mean bribes were paid to them.
When asked about his comments that they played no part in the controversy, Michel told the channel, "I have to protect the Gandhis to protect myself," and added, "I have to prove they are innocent to prove my innocence."
Further, he stood by his earlier claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met his Italian counterpart in New York last year and had offered to release two Italian marines imprisoned in India in exchange for information about the VVIP chopper deal.
Meanwhile, in an interview to another channel yesterday, Michel had said that the only person related to Agusta that he ever met was former IAF chief Colonel SP Tyagi.
In an interview to India Today TV, Michel had also said that he had never met Sonia or former PM Manmohan Singh.
He had told the TV channel, "No, never. I have never met Sonia Gandhi. Never met Manmohan Singh or AK Antony. Congress never interfered in Agusta deal. I avoid meeting leaders, my expertise is implementation."
However, he had added, "I probably met ex-Air chief SP Tyagi in Gymkhana club. Met Tyagi and others and I wasn't keen on them. I was introduced to Julie Tyagi as a powerful industrialist. Julie is a very nice man. He didn't promise me of any deal. I was very nervous of them. I think Tyagi was used as a tool for Haschke to get inside AgustaWestland. I don't think he can play any major role."
Michel is one of three alleged middlemen whom the Indian investigating agencies suspect to have brokered the VVIP chopper deal in favour of UK-based AgustaWestland.
Both Central Bureau of Investigation and ED have notified Michel under the Interpol Red Corner Notice.
The controversial deal and the alleged bribes to the tune of Rs 120 crore paid in clinching it for AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, has triggered a political slugfest between BJP and Congress.
CBI and ED have also questioned Tyagi in connection with the deal.
CBI had in 2013 registered a case in connection with alleged bribes paid by the firm to Indians to clinch the deal.