It has been alleged that the initials, mentioned in a paper submitted to an Italian court, referred a ruling family
Amid loud protests from the Opposition which alleged the involvement of senior politicians in the recently-cancelled Rs.3,560 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, Defence Minister A.K. Antony admitted in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that some documents pertaining to the deal have been received from the Italian authorities but noted that they were yet to be verified.
In a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister said while transcript of these “unsigned handwritten” papers have been received in the Ministry through Consul-General of India, Milan, the authenticity of these documents is “not proved”. “The case is presently in progress in the Italian court,” he said.
Mr. Antony admitted that a paper pertaining to some initials had been submitted in the Italian court. “During hearing in Italian court, one unsigned handwritten paper has been produced which has headings AF, BUR, POL (under which AP) is recorded, FAM, etc. Mr. Guido Haschke, from whom this document was recovered, has been cross examined on this,” he said.
The Minister, while referring to a document, noted that “it was seen that during the course of the cross-examination of Mr. Haschke (another accused middleman), in response to a specific question by the Italian public prosecutor as to the meaning of ‘FAM’, Mr.Haschke replied that ‘FAM’ is family.”
Since it had been alleged in a section of the media that “FAM” implied a ruling family, Mr. Antony clarified that “in reply to another question, he (Mr.Haschke) stated ‘… due to the family, that is to the Tyagi brothers’.”
Similarly, as it was alleged that “AP” referred to a senior politician, Mr. Antony said “In response to ‘AP’, Mr. Haschke stated ‘I don’t know what it means’”.
An Italian magazine had recently published a detailed account of how a faxed and unsigned note by one of the middlemen in the deal, Christen Michel, which was allegedly faxed by him to a contact at the company’s Delhi office had called upon the latter to approach “Sonia Gandhi and her closest advisors”. It had further mentioned “Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, M. Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandez, M.K. Narayanan, Vinay Singh” as the “key advisers”.
The deal for supply of 12 VVIP AW-101 choppers had run into trouble after some officials of Finmeccanica Group, the parent company of M/s AgustaWestland International Ltd, UK, were arrested in February 2013 by the Italian authorities for their involvement in Rs. 360 crore bribery scandal for securing the contract.
Mr. Antony said “immediately CBI was asked to conduct an inquiry” and it registered a preliminary inquiry on February 2013, which has been converted into a regular case against Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) S.P.Tyagi, and 18 other persons and companies. The CBI, he said, has issued letters rogatory for witnesses and evidence.
On the proceedings in the Italian court, Mr. Antony said the authorities commenced criminal proceedings from June 19, 2013 at the court of Busto Arisizo, Milan, in this case. Ministry of Defence, has joined the case as an affected civil party and representatives of MoD, CBI and Ministry of External Affairs have been attending the hearings in Italy.
The Minister said it was “based on documents and other relevant evidences available” that the deal was cancelled on January 1 this year “on grounds of breach of provisions of the pre-integrity pact and the agreement with AWIL”. He said the process of encashment of various bank guarantees was on and the Government was also pursuing actions in various legal fora to protect its rights.