Chopper of Hopes – AgustaWestland – The Complete Story
Corruption and bribery are two best-identified qualities of the Indian government. Moreover, scams in defense deals are nothing new for India. Not a year will pass by without having a scam to scrape. This year it is the AgustaWestland, to the people who haven’t read it before or have the slightest idea of what it is- It’s a bribery scam that was signed in the year 2010. In February 2010, India had signed a contract with the AgustaWestland for 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.
Later in 2013, a parliamentary investigation started into allegations and bribery involving several senior officials and the above-mentioned helicopter manufacturer surrounding a fleet purchase of helicopters. The helicopter ordered was for VVIP that included Prime minister, President, and Minister of defense. But the scam revealed that Rs.36 Billion deal which stands cancelled.
What exactly happened?
In India to get a land’s FMB sketch approved is like meeting the god, to get an admission is a way to difficult compared to standing in a long queue on a hot summer afternoon. Bribing and corruption have and will always remain to be in the blood of the government. If that suffices then the deal that was made between AgustaWestland and India was a blunder in itself, the Coalgate and 3G wasn’t enough this had to sprout up.
Ever since the Hon’ble appeal court of Italy made a mention of Sonia Gandhi as the “driving force”, Arnab Goswami has been delighted to scream on and on about it, the Indian political theatre’s decibel level has increased manifolds.
The Italian prosecutors allege Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel (political secretary of Congress). A note dating back to March 15, 2008, presented in the Italian court showed that Congress party president was the driving force behind the purchase of the VIP helicopters.
The alleged people in the scam are Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee , M Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandez, M K Narayanan, Vinay Singh. The note also contains the bribes to be paid out.
This controversy came to light on 12 February 2013, with the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Finmeccanica , Agusta’s parent company. Recent revelations are the deal for helicopters worth 3,600 crores and for the use of VVIPs , went off track in 2013 when Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, which owns AugustaWestland, for paying bribes to secure the deal. He was convicted earlier this month.
Italy and India have separately investigated 30 million Euros as payoffs for the deal. While Italy has looked at who offered the bribes, the Indian government told this week “it is the identity of the bribe-takers that must be established”. Notes and letters exchanged between Finmeccanica executives and middlemen named several leaders of congress, which was then in power. These documents were thought upon seriously, discussed by the Italian court, and attached to its order, which grants them legitimacy claimed the BJP.
Middlemen were very sure that the probe would take 10 years to reach Mauritius. Phone conversations tapped by the Italian agencies show that Haschke told Gerosa that even if investigations reached them, it would take the agencies 10 years to reach Mauritius from where the money was being routed.
Partners Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, the alleged middlemen in the AgustaWestland deal, had cooked up a very meticulous nexus of companies to route the bribes to India that even after the probe began, they were fully confident that no one will be caught. Phone conversation tapped by the Italian authorities show that Haschke told Gerosa that even if investigations knocked on their doors, it would take agencies 10 years to reach Mauritius from where all the money was meandering.
Subsequently, the investigation began, they also discussed among themselves that a lawyer had advised them to “ usually do the business”, keep going to AgustaWestland office and continue to transfer funds or else it would arise suspicion and would be an admission of guilt”.
The guilt was alleged payment of bribes that had begun in 2004, six years before the deal to supply 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to India was struck. The Tyagi brothers, cousins if former IAF chief S P Tyagi , had so convinced Haschke and AgustaWestland about swinging the deal In their favour that payments to them began in 2004 itself, seven months before S P Tyagi became Air Chief Marshal.
According to ED, in the ‘offset’ (work to be mandatorily done in India) category, AgustaWestland set aside Euro 70 million which would be transferred to the companies floated by two groups of middlemen — one led by Haschke and Gerosa and the other led by Christian Michel. “The real deal was, however, that of the 70 million euros, only 30 per cent would be utilized for actual work including engineering services and media handling while the rest would be diverted to pay bribes,” the official said. To facilitate this, a maze of companies was set up to move money across borders and camouflage bribes. While Christian Michel set up Global Services FZE in Dubai, Haschke set up IDS Tunisia, IDS Mauritius, and Aeromatrix. Consequently, Michel was supposed to get Euro 42 million while Haschke was to be given Euro 28 million.