Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #183 - Agusta Westland, Michel, Gandhis, and Gaddafi!

(Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay)

“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.” ― Virginia Woolf


Inroads and partnerships of the corrupt do not happen in a day. In this world of cut-throat geopolitics, bribery, and wars, even the corrupt do not trust others with their lives, literally, without some basis.

So, when we saw the rampant and endemic corruption during the Congress era, it wasn’t something that happened in a day. It took forever to create. The Gandhi family connections go beyond one generation. They have had links for many generations with power-centers around the world.

That is why India was not compromised by just one person during Bofors or Agusta Westland. Those guys simply tapped into the already created web of corrupt networks that had been laid painstakingly by those who came before him.

If the Congress brass is so enamored with the Gandhi family then it is not just because they serve as the figure-heads of a corrupt empire that allows all its ‘card-holding tribesmen’ to loot and prosper. But because the Gandhis have created a network that anyone with an ambition to make money unscrupulously can tap into.

The story of Agusta Westland, for example, does not start with Michel or Saxena. It goes back to Indira Gandhi and Gaddafi. That is where the foundational network was laid for relationships to be tapped into.


deep histories and corrupt links

Christian James Michel, a British national who was involved in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, was extradited late on December 4th, 2018.

Michel was the intermediary hired by Agusta Westland to bribe Indian politicians for the helicopter deal.

According to the CBI, Michel was allegedly hired by AgustaWestland to influence people -- including politicians, officials and even journalists. He, along with two other middlemen, Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke, are accused of bribing people to secure the deal for AgustaWestland.(Source)

Rajiv Saxena was deported from Dubai in January 2019.

Rajeev Saxena, an accused in multi-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal scam, and lobbyist Deepak Talwar are being extradited to India from Dubai, UAE. The two latest extraditions come as a major breakthrough for the investigating agencies in the AgustaWestland case.  They were extradited to India and were arrested by ED at 2 am last night.  Officials said that in the first case, Rajeev Shamsher Bahadur Saxena, was picked up by Dubai authorities early Wednesday in connection with the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers money laundering case. Saxena's lawyers alleged that no extradition proceedings were started against him in the UAE and he was not allowed to access his family or lawyers while being sent to India.(Source)

 He was paid by Christian Michel in the Agusta Westland deal as well.

British national Christian Michel James received Euro 37.4 million from AgustaWestland and he paid Euro 0.9 million to Dubai-based chartered accountant Rajiv Saxena's four companies, the CBI claimed in its supplemntary chargesheet in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal case.(Source)

Earlier this year, the Enforcement Directorate had attached Saxena’s assets worth $50 mn.

In one of the biggest attachments so far in UPA-era AgustaWestland scam, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached assets worth US dollars 50.90 million (equivalent to Rs 385.44 crore) including a villa in Palm Jubeirah, Dubai and five Swiss bank accounts belonging to AgustaWestland scam alleged middleman Rajiv Saxena, who the agency says managed the proceeds of crime and tainted money of many high profile and High Net worth Individuals (HNIs).(Source)

Rajiv Saxena has turned an approver in this Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper scandal.

In his interrogations, Saxena has discussed the transactions that linked his firm with those of Christian Michel and Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri.  He has now also named Kamal Nath’s son Bakul Nath, along with Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Ahmed Patel.

The Agusta Westland kickbacks were routed via Rajiv Saxena’s Interstellar Technologies and Global Services owned by Christian Michel.

What were these monies for?  Yes, you guessed it.  To pay off the politicians.

These payoffs, Saxena told ED, “were (also) for the benefit of political leaders and bureaucrats who were in a position of influencing the decision at that point of time. Some of these funds were once again, directly or indirectly, through structured transactions, and some of the structures set up by me, were routed into investments in India.” (Source)

This whole kick-back web is huge and complex with many beneficiaries involved on the way.

But the main beneficiary is also “the family.”  That is what sustains the Congress ecosystem.

In December 2018, CBI had informed the court that Christian Michel's father Wolfgang Michel was a friend of Indira Gandhi.

As per TimeNow reporting based on the remand documents that CBI prepared.

As per the remand documents, accessed by Times Now, CBI said that Christian’s father Wolfgang Michel, was a consultant of Westland Helicopters to Government of India in the 1970s. The probe agency informed the court that Christian claimed that his father had told him that he used to meet the Gandhis, a fact that was also told to Christian by people close to his father. “His father knew late Indra Gandhi since 1970s and was very close to Gandhi family,” read the document.The CBI document further referenced to an incident in 1982-83 when a question was raised in the Indian Parliament regarding the identity of ‘Mr Wolfgang Michel”. The then PM Indira Gandhi is said to have replied that she “considered him as a friend of India”, as per the CBI’s remand papers.(Source)

What is very interesting is that Sonia Gandhi also entered the life of Rajiv Gandhi in the late 1960s.  Rahul Gandhi was born in 1970.  Was the access to the Gandhi household and the close relationship of Sonia and Indira Gandhi during that time have anything to do with each other?

Wolfgang Michel was actually very close to Col Gaddafi of Libya and got many deals done for the West in Libya.  Here is an extract from Shouting in the Street: Adventures and Misadventures of a Fleet Street Survivor by Donald Trelford

And his dealing with India had been going on for a long time.  His activities included the export of Jute!

Mr Michel, who said he knew Mr Gadaff Al Daim, cloaks his business affairs in mystery via a Liechtenstein offshore trust. Records show a UK investment company ultimately controlled by him – Entera Corporation – has brought into Britain more than £2m in commissions earned from India.Associates say he has acted to sell arms on behalf of Russia, but Mr Michel denied this. He said he had “negotiated legitimate sales of civil aircraft to India”. He points out his commissions include earnings from the export of jute. (source)

Btw, this Mr. Gadaff Al Daim – cousin of Col Gaddafi – is the same guy who had that infamous affair with the Indian Call girl Pamela Bordes while Daim was negotiating a deal between Libya and the Italian car firm Fiat.  The relationship between Libya and India also took a special turn in 1984 when Indira Gandhi visited Tripoli to meet Col Gaddafi.

So this whole world of arms and bribery intrigue did not just get invented recently with Rajiv Saxena.  It has connections to the relationships that were developed decades ago!

Indian food vs Western food - food pairings and taste

Pairing food ingredients is a great obsession with many food scientists and chefs in US and Europe.  A practice which was pioneered by flavor chemist François Benziand chef Heston Blumenthal.  The aim is to go for molecular matching in the foods that are combined together. (Source)

It is said that most food ingredients contain about 50 different kinds of flavor molecules on average.

So in Western cuisine, the objective is to combine foods that share common flavor molecules.  The more flavor molecules the different components of a dish have in common, the more delicious that food is perceived to be.

In 2015, Anupam Jain and fellow researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Jodhpur shared something in their study (Spices form the basis of food pairing in Indian cuisine) startling.  When the studied 2,500 Indian recipes ranging from Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, and South Indian cuisine (taken from tarladalal.com), they found that common combinations in the Indian food have negative food pairings.

They just do not share any flavor compounds!

In fact, when we add spices like red pepper, garam masala, ginger, or even tamarind, the negative pairings become even more negative.

The whole logic and structure of Indian food is the complete opposite of Western food.

Maybe that is the reason for the amazing taste in Indian food.

Interestingly, most of the spices have been used in Ayurveda and have been mentioned in Charaka Samhita.  These act as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive, antimutagenic, and detoxifying agents.

It has been found that lentils, millets, and spices, (like turmeric and garlic) were used as far back as in the Indus Valley Civilization!

Here are some food pairings that Indian recipes use. A data analyst gathered the data from Kaggle and used the following tools to create a pairing map.

  1. Pandas

  2. Numpy

  3. Matplotlib

  4. Networkx

Some explanation to the illustration below:

Parsed 6000+ Indian recipes to find the spices used in making them. Looked at the combination of spices by tabulating their occurrences together in a given recipe. Node size is the number of times a spice occurred in a recipe. Larger the node, the more common that spice. Edge thickness is the strength of the connection. The darker the edge more frequently that combination occurred together. (Source)

Check them out.

And, this is very important. The Indian recipes embed wisdom of many millennia. That our ancestor could turn the common perception of food combination on its head because it made sense health-wise and stick with that line of cooking for so long, while improving it means something.

Unfortunately, it is something that this generation is losing when the kids do not learn the recipes from their parents and grandparents.

market corner - 10 quick bytes

  1. Sensex breaches 44,000-mark as vaccine optimism leads markets to new high - more

  2. Indian students contributed USD 7.6 billion to the US economy in the academic year 2019-20 despite a drop in enrollments - more

  3. India Inc gains despite Covid-19 disruptions; combined profit at Rs 1.5 trillion - more

  4. Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy in new drug retail wars - more

  5. RBI launches Innovation Hub to boost financial inclusion; Kris Gopalakrishnan first chairman - more

  6. High defaults from low-rated borrowers of non-banking financial companies (NBFC), some commercial vehicle borrowers, shadow banks and fintechs - more

  7. Reliance Retail Ventures Limited acquires a 96% stake in online furniture retailer Urban Ladder for a cash consideration of Rs 182.12 crore - more

  8. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) provides multiple options for EPS pensioners to submit their DLC, close to their home or at their doorstep, amid the COVID-19 situation - more

  9. PM SVANidhi (launched June 1) boost for MSME - 14x jump in sanctioned loan applications in 3 months, Rs 760 crores (7.78 lakh loan applications) disbursed so far until Nov 17, 2020 - more

  10. Hiring activities improve in metros; job postings rise 5% in October - more

nota bene

MP to ban ‘Love Jihad’: The Madhya Pradesh government is soon going to bring a law against 'Love Jihad' in the next session of the assembly. State home minister Narottam Mishra on Tuesday informed that the law will provide for five years of rigorous imprisonment to the culprits. The bill will be introduced in the next session of the assembly. "We are making preparations to introduce Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020 in Assembly. It'll provide for 5 yrs of rigorous imprisonment. We're also proposing that such crimes be declared a cognizable & non-bailable offense," the minister said. (Source)

Mouthwash can kill Corona: According to an experimental study, the mouthwash exhibited virgin properties that could kill the deadly coronavirus. Researchers say that mouthwash can reduce the oral "viral load" of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 in people suffering from the disease. The initial result follows from a clinical trial whether the patient can reduce COVID-19 levels in saliva using over-the-counter mouthwash. A WION report says, Cardiff University researchers found that mouthwash emanating from the mouth contained 0.07% Cetyl Pyridinium Chloride (CPC), which showed "promising signs" of reducing COVID-19. (Source)

Canadians hate China: Just 7% of Canadians hold a positive view of China with the vast majority considering the Asian giant negatively, according to a new survey done by an Ottawa-based think tank. The poll, conducted for the MacDonald-Laurier Institute (MLI), was presented as part of the report, surveyed 1,023 Canadians in English and French at the end of September. According to the findings, just 7% held either a very positive or a moderately positive view of China. While 20% remained neutral, 73% held either a moderately negative or very negative view of China. Significantly, 79% see China as posing a serious or moderate threat to Canada, far outpacing other traditional foes such as Russia or Iran. (Source)

Brahmos Exports to the Philippines: Countries from the Southeast Asian region including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam have expressed keen interest in the BrahMos missile which has the capability to be launched from aircraft, land platforms as well as the sea. One of the ASEAN countries the Philippines could be the first to get the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic missile. Briefing the media persons ahead of the BRICS summit next week, Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin said “Russia and India are planning to export the BrahMos supersonic missile to export to the Philippines and several other countries.” (Source)

Malaysian carrier to shut shop in India: Malaysia's flagship budget carrier AirAsia Group Bhd has given its strongest indication to date that it could exit India, saying on Tuesday it was reviewing its investment in a joint venture airline there. The group said in a statement that its operations in India, like those of its now-shuttered Japan business, have been draining cash and adding to the group's financial stress. "Cost containment and reducing cash burn remain key priorities evident by the recent closure of AirAsia Japan and an ongoing review of our investment in AirAsia India," it said. (Source)

World War or China: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said the incoming Biden administration should move quickly to restore lines of communication with China that frayed during the Trump years or risk a crisis that could escalate into military conflict. “America and China are now drifting increasingly toward confrontation, and they’re conducting their diplomacy in a confrontational way,” the 97-year-old Kissinger said in an interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. “The danger is that some crisis will occur that will go beyond rhetoric into actual military conflict.” (Source)

An algorithm that decodes brain signals: A new machine-learning algorithm can successfully determine which specific behaviors—like walking and breathing—belong to which specific brain signal, and it has the potential to help the military maintain a more ready force.  At any given time, people perform a myriad of tasks. All of the brain and behavioral signals associated with these tasks mix together to form a complicated web. Until now, this web has been difficult to untangle and translate.  But researchers funded by the U.S. Army developed a machine-learning algorithm that can model and decode these signals, according to a Nov. 12 press release. The research, which used standard brain datasets for analysis, was recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.  (Source)

Work from Home increases Racism?: As people continue to work from the confines of their homes while the Covid-19 pandemic rages, researchers have warned that working remotely for a prolonged time may lead to an increase in racism and prejudice. The study, conducted by a group of researchers in the Woolf Institute in the UK, found that workplace friendships are key to breaking down misconceptions about each other. Researchers surveyed more than 11,700 adults in England and Wales and found that working in office setups work as an opportunity to mix with people from different backgrounds. The findings also showed that people who were “economically inactive” were 37% more likely to have friends within their own ethnic group than people who were going to the office on a daily basis. These people are also more likely to feel negatively towards local ethnic diversity, the study also showed. (Source)

Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years: Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness for years, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come. (Source)

the wrong Mecca?

A very interesting study and documentary. Very little original work is done in the Islamic world when it comes to history. Specifically in Arab lands. So it was refreshing to see someone discuss a key aspect of Islamic history in a new way.

The Sacred City presents compelling evidence that suggests the holy city of Mecca is in the wrong location and that the worlds 1.6 billion Muslims are praying in the direction of the wrong city. Compiling evidence from both historic sources and new technologies point to the correct location in this seismic, revelatory new film. In this startling and original documentary, writer and historian, Dan Gibson, shows that descriptions of Mohamed’s original holy city – as detailed in the Qur’an and Islamic histories, do not match that of the Mecca we know today. If true this could shake Islam to it’s roots, because every Muslim is required to pray towards the ‘forbidden gathering place’. If Dan Gibson is right, Muslims are praying in the wrong direction. In the film ‘The Sacred City’ we set out his evidence from within Islamic and ancient histories – while also using modern technologies - to track down the biggest secret of the last fifteen hundred years. Gibson not only finds the location of the original Mecca but also provides a convincing argument as to how such a great misunderstanding in Islamic history came about.

Would this lead to a change in the construction of all the mosques?

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