Marines for evidence: Congress questions PMO

3 Feb 2016 | By Vaneet Randhawa

The Congress questioned the PMO, as reports erupted in the Kolkata-based Telegraph daily that the Modi government had offered the freedom of the 2 Italian marines in exchange for proof connecting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to the AgustaWestland copter scam.

Congress party's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said that the "PMO needs to answer on this issue".

In context: Marines for evidence: The political trade-off

2 Feb 2016PM offered marine tradeoff: Wanted Agent

Christian Michel, a British arms agent wanted in a helicopter scam has attacked the Modi government for offering to trade-off the Italian marines in return of information against the Gandhis in the 2013 AgustaWestland case.

The agent wrote so in a letter to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Seas in Hamburg and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

The Italian Marine case

The Italian marines are facing trial for shooting 2 Kerala fishermen in February 2012 and the case against them has led to the deterioration of India's relationship with Italy, "once an important defence partner, to its lowest since Independence."
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Modi-Renzi 'brush-by' meeting

2 Feb 2016Modi-Renzi 'brush-by' meeting

The agent contended that Italian PM Renzi and Modi met at a secret "brush-by" meeting during the UN General Assembly in September 2015 when both leaders were in New York.

Modi asked Renzi to ascertain if the "key adviser to Finmeccanica/ AgustaWestland"- Christian Michel had any links to Sonia Gandhi or her family.

In return, they would be assisted in solving the marine case.

The AgustaWestland scam

The AgustaWestland scam pertains to bribery under the Congress' tenure. The Italian firm Finmeccanica is accused of having won the contract to supply 12 choppers to India for Rs.3,600 crore by bribing top-brass leadership.

Allegations Ill fated timing of the allegations

The allegations by Christian Michel come at a misplaced time as India and Italy are trying to resolve the "political differences over the marines' case even as legal proceedings are continuing internationally."

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has even chalked out a plan through 2016 for testimonies by India and Italy.

However, neither nation expects the other to drop legal proceedings.

2 Feb 2016External affairs ministry calls charges 'ridiculous'

The Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the charges were "too ridiculous to comment on" when asked for the government's response.

However, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs couldn't refute Michel's contention of "brush-by" meeting between Modi and Renzi.

They cited that with "so many world leaders there", it was likely that a 'brief conversation' took place.

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3 Feb 2016Marines for evidence: Congress questions PMO