A team of Defence Ministry and CBI officials investigating the Rs. 3600-crore VVIP chopper scam will question alleged middleman Guido Haschke in Italy today. The Swiss businessman, believed to be the key link between Indian defence officials and Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland, was arrested in Switzerland in October and later brought to Italy for trial. He will be produced before a court in Milan today.
India scrapped the 12-chopper deal with UK-based AgustaWestland earlier this month, nearly a year after allegations surfaced that kickbacks were paid to Indian officials, including former IAF chief SP Tyagi, to favour Agusta for the contract.
Haschke is one of the 13 accused named in the FIR filed by the CBI. “Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa (both middlemen) managed to send 5.6 million euros through Mohali-based IDS Infotech and Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix Info Solutions Private Ltd to India and kept the remaining amount of about 24.30 million euros received from AgustaWestland with themselves in the account of IDS Tunisia,” the investigating agency has said in the FIR.
The Italian prosecutor who carried out the preliminary inquiry in Milan has alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, had used middlemen to bribe Indian officials.
The contract for 12 AW-101 helicopters was signed in February 2010. Three helicopters were delivered in 2011 and 2012, and about 30 per cent of the money was paid.
In February 2013, reports surfaced alleging that two top officials of AgustaWestland’s Italian parent, defence manufacturer Finmeccanica, had paid bribes to bag the Indian contract. An Italian inquiry into the deal forced India to investigate it too.
The CBI has alleged that former Air Force Chief SP Tyagi was among those who accepted bribes from Finmeccanica. Both AgustaWestland and Air Chief Marshall Tyagi have rejected the allegations against them.