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Bribes routed through maze of firms

“Even if the investigations were to go ahead, it would be at least 10 years before the money would be found in Mauritius”. This excerpt of a conversation between alleged AgustaWestland middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa intercepted by Italian authorities on March 3, 2012, is quite telling.

Four years on, Indian agencies are still awaiting information from at least seven countries to establish the money trail linking the accused persons to the alleged over €51million bribes and commissions paid by the helicopter firm to bag the deal.

Italian documents, coupled with the findings of Indian agencies, allegedly reveal that the kickbacks were paid through two routes, one involving British middleman Christian Michel (who received €30 million) and the other involving Haschke-Gerosa duo. A maze of companies, set up in India, Tunisia, Mauritius and the U.S. among other countries, were used in the transactions.

The agencies have not been able to make much headway into the transactions made through Christian Michel, largely owing to lack of information from countries like the U.K. and the United Arab Emirates. However, they have collected some evidence of the funds routed through Haschke and Gerosa to the three cousins of former Air Chief Marshal S. P. Tyagi: Sanjeev, Rajiv and Sandeep Tyagi.

The duo contacted lawyer Gautam Khaitan, arrested by the ED in September 2014, to float companies for routing the funds. “Khaitan allegedly incorporated companies for foreign and local clients. Initially, the company would be set up on the address of his firm O P Khaitan & Co by appointing his employees as directors and shareholders and would then be sold to his clients,” said an ED official.

Khaitan introduced the middlemen to the top functionaries of a company named IDS Infotech-Chandigarh, which entered into a deal with AgustaWestland for execution of engineering contracts. The lawyer was on the board of directors of IDS Chandigarh.

According to the ED, IDS Tunisia — set up as a subsidiary — received a total of €24.06 million from AgustaWestland. From the same amount, €3.8 million were transferred to another firm named Aeromatrix, about €1.8 million were paid to IDS Infotech (Chandigarh); the remaining €18.94 million was retained by IDS Tunisia.

“This differential amount with IDS Tunisia is suspected to be the money laundered by payments made on highly inflated invoices raised by various companies, including Intersteller Technologies- Mauritius and US-based Euromed, controlled by the two middlemen,” said the official.

Trailing the money, ED found that Aeromatrix was previously incorporated by Khaitan as Incrust Infotechno Solutions to take over the IT unit of IDS Chandigarh for executing works for AgustaWestland. Initially, he and his employee Arihant Jain were its shareholders and directors. However, it was then remained Aeromatrix and taken over by Haschke and Gerosa.


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Printable version | Nov 23, 2021 5:37:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/agusta-westland-chopper-scam-bribes-routed-through-maze-of-firms/article8537975.ece

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