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Extradition of Swiss middleman could be delayed

Vaiju Naravane
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He was arrested in Switzerland on charges of bribery and corruption in the 560-million-Euro VVIP helicopter contract with India

A file photo of AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter
A file photo of AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter

: The extradition of Swiss middleman Guido Haschke (63), arrested in Switzerland on Thursday on charges of bribery and corruption in the 560-million-Euro VVIP helicopter deal with India, could be delayed.

Sources close to the AgustaWestland/ Finmeccanica investigation and trial in Busto Arsizio, near Milan, in northern Italy told The Hindu over the phone that according to information received by the Italian authorities, Mr. Haschke has decided to appeal against the Swiss Federal Court’s decision to extradite him.

The last trial date, set for October 8, was scrapped as Presiding Judge Toni Adet Novik was moved to another case. Now trial will take place on November 26 with a new Presiding Judge.

The sources indicated that if extradition proceedings succeed, Mr. Haschke would be produced in court as a key witness in the trial of the former Managing Director of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini; and Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of its mother company, Italian armaments giant Finmeccanica. Their trial opened in Busto Arsizio, an industrial suburb of Milan, in June 2013. The Italian authorities decided to go ahead with the trial of Mr. Orsi and Mr. Spagnolini without waiting for the arrest of other middlemen as that would mean long delays in the trial owing to lengthy extradition proceedings.

Mr. Haschke is one of three middlemen – others being Christian Michel and Carlo Gerosa, holding American and Italian passports – who allegedly conspired with India’s former Air Chief, S.P. Tyagi, his cousins Sanjeev (Julie) Rajeev (Docsa) and Sandeep Tyagi among others, to pay out commissions of 56 million Euros so that AgustaWestland/Finmeccanica could win the VVIP helicopter contract.

The sources contend that the CBI has been reluctant and slow to act “despite receiving ample evidence of wrongdoing.” This includes bank statements, wire tapped conversations, bills and other documentation – 110,000 pages in all contained in 4 CD-ROMs. Now the CBI has filed an FIR, citing 13 persons, including the Tyagi brothers.

“Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa 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,” says the FIR.

In several press releases issued in recent weeks, AgustaWestland has vigorously denied any wrong-doing and declared it was going into arbitration to challenge India’s decision to suspend the delivery of the 9 remaining helicopters, ground the three flying machines already delivered and perhaps even go so far as to blacklist the company altogether. India has cited the “integrity clause” that outlaws all middlemen in defence contracts.

Mr. Orsi was arrested on charges of international corruption, bribery and billing fraud over the sale of the 12 helicopters and spent 80 days in preventive detention. Mr. Spagnolini faces similar charges. The middlemen were allegedly paid commissions totalling some 56 million Euros through an elaborate system of fake billing using fictitious IT companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia.

“No move has been made yet by the Indian authorities to arrest any of the Tyagi brothers despite the fact that India has now become a civil party to the trial,” the sources said.

The documents in the CBI’s possession indicate a dramatic penetration of India’s defence secrets by outside middlemen, the sources said. Several documents recovered from Mr. Haschke and Mr. Gerosa gave the results of all field trials conducted for the helicopter deal.

“Clearly someone on the inside was passing on valuable bits of information to persons outside India’s defence establishment, whether the Air Force or the Ministry of Defence,” the sources said. The deal was on the table, scrapped and then revived again because of technical specifications that could not be met by competing parties. This resulted in single vendor situations.

Sources in the CBI told PTI news agency that the investigating agency was seeking details on Mr. Haschke’s arrest through the Indian Embassy embassy in Rome. It also plans to send “letters rogatory” for statements made by those accused currently in Italian custody.

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