The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a case against a Brigadier of the Army Aviation Corps for allegedly attempting to favour the Italian company AgustaWestland in a contract for procurement of 197 helicopters, separate from the VVIP helicopter deal.
The case has been instituted on the basis of documents seized from the alleged middlemen, Guido Ralph Haschke, by Italian authorities in connection with the now-terminated VVIP helicopter deal. The papers have been given to the CBI through the Ministry of Defence.
According to the CBI, the case has been registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Brigadier V.S. Saini, unknown officials and private persons. It alleges that the accused attempted to favour the Italian operations of AgustaWestland in the procurement of 197 R and S helicopters.
“The matter came to light when an unsigned note was seized by the Italian prosecutors during a search at the residence of Mr. Haschke’s mother. The note allegedly states the Brigadier, as in-charge of the flight evaluation team, could tilt the decision in favour of the Italian firm but had demanded €5 million in return for the job,” a CBI official said. The Brigadier was part of the team that was conducting a trial of the competing light utility helicopters. The procurement was to be done for replacement of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters for reconnaissance and evacuation in high-altitude regions. However, the process was called off in 2007.
“The Brigadier’s name cropped up during the probe into the allegations of kickbacks in the VVIP helicopter deal. Documents running into hundreds of pages have been provided by the Italian authorities to the Defence Ministry. Scrutinising the documents is a time-consuming process, and it also requires translation,” another official said.
AgustaWestland has denied any wrongdoing and refuted all charges in the past.
According to sources in Italy close to the ongoing bribery trial of the former chiefs of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, Giuseppi Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, Guido Haschke “has talked extensively and given ample evidence that bribes were paid.”
The sources, contacted on the phone, also expressed satisfaction that India had “finally taken action by scrapping, and not just suspending, the deal. Now we are awaiting CBI charges against the main accused. We have given the Indian authorities some 1,10,000 pages of documents with certain files containing highly incriminating evidence. Swift action should be taken,” the source told The Hindu .
Public Prosecutor Eugenio Fusco last month presented an Italy court with notes, scribbled with a pen, giving figures and acronyms. The notes indicated that €6 million had allegedly been paid to pol (or politicians), 8.4 million to bur (bureaucrats) and 6 million to some Indian Air Force (Af) officials.
“One note says the Brigadier demanded €5 million to tilt the decision in favour of the Italian firm”