Stubborn denial of one of the alleged middlemen may bring the case against AgustaWestland down

Guido Ralph Haschke, one of the alleged middlemen in the AgustaWestland trial currently under way in Italy, told the court on Thursday that his contract with the company was “for engineering services only” and he had “no knowledge” of any money being paid to Air Marshal Shashi Tyagi.

“I am unaware if money was paid to the then Air Chief Marshal, Shashi Tyagi,” Mr. Haschke told the court. With Mr Haschke’s stubborn denial that money was paid to the former Air Chief, the case against AgustaWestland might well collapse.

“The money that was sent to India was given exclusively to pay for engineering services and for rent and administrative requirements. This was disbursed through the Tyagi brothers. I do not know how this money was allocated. From what I know, their cousin [Air Chief Marshal Tyagi] was never given money,” Mr. Haschke said under cross-examination by defence lawyers.

The trial is being held in Busto Arsizio, an industrial suburb near Milan. The main accused are Giuseppe Orsi, the former CEO of Italian armaments giant Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, the former Managing Director of AgustaWestland, which is owned by Finmeccanica. The trial was adjourned for a short break and proceedings resumed after lunch. In the past, the hearings have taken place only in the mornings.

Mr. Haschke was cross-examined by advocate Arianna Carlotti, appearing for the Indian Defence Ministry, a civil party in the case. He was also cross-examined by Ennio Amodio, lawyer of Mr. Orsi and by advocate Bassi appearing for Mr. Spagnolini.

Mr. Haschke, a Swiss and American national, was one of the three alleged middlemen in the Rs.3,600-crore contract to sell 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to India. Commissions totalling €52 million were allegedly paid to three middlemen, including Mr. Haschke. A part of that money was reportedly paid to Air Chief Marshal Tyagi, his three cousins and “several others,” according to the Public Prosecutor, Eugenio Fusco.

There was a small crossing of swords between the defence lawyer, Professor Amodio, and Mr. Haschke on the date when the specifications for the helicopter were changed from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet, which permitted AgustaWestland to bid for the contract. Professor Amodio also questioned Mr. Haschke about a reference to “the cousin” in one of the telephone intercepts. Which cousin was he referring to, the lawyer demanded, was he bandying the name of Tyagi to get Orsi into trouble?

“It’s not like that,” Mr. Haschke replied. “When I saw the intercept of March 2012, I had to remember the context in which that remark was made. The “cousin” could be a reference either to the Air Marshal or to one of the three Tyago brothers. Julie was annoyed because the contract was no longer being respected, and he wanted to take legal action locally to ensure it was respected.” It was unclear exactly which contract was in question during this interchange.

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