New Delhi: Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday saw a "sinister conspiracy" in reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in 2015.
"It is apparent that a huge conspiracy is on to malign the NDA government led by Modi by stooping to the level of giving credence to baseless and false claims made by an accused", Naidu told reporters.
He was reacting to media reports which recounted allegations by James Christian Michel, a middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, that Modi and Renzi had met in New York where Modi allegedly asked for evidence of "wrongdoing" against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in the copter deal in return for freedom for the imprisoned Italian Marines.
The Minister termed as "mischievous propaganda" quoting "highly objectionable" reports and denied there was any meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Italy.
"There appears to be a sinister conspiracy behind the patently false claim to defame and tarnish the image of Mr. Modi and the Indian government by setting up this smokescreen as fallacious diversionary ploy," he said.
He said "firstly, no such meeting had taken place between the two Prime Ministers. Secondly, how could anybody claim that a discussion took place between them for an alleged trade-off when there was no meeting."
The Minister said official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs has already clarified on this issue.
He said the "so-called unauthenticated" letter written by Italian middleman James Christian Michel to Modi "made no mention of the purported deal made by Modi with the Italian Prime Minister for freeing two Italian marines on trial for killing Indian fishermen in exchange for information against Gandhi family".
He raised strong objections to giving credence to the allegations of an accused against Modi and Indian government.
Talking about Michel, Naidu said government has promptly registered a case and various law enforcement agencies are proceeding against him under Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
He said a non-bailable arrest warrant was also issued by the Special Judge of CBI against him on 24 September, 2015.
Following a CBI request, the Interpol headquarters has issued a Red Corner notice on 24 November, 2015 and CBI also made a request for provisional arrest for extradition to the United Kingdom authorities on 4 January this year.
A separate Red Corner notice was also sent by Enforcement Directorate seeking his arrest and extradition from the UK on 29 February, 2016, he said.