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ED to make first attachment of assets in VVIP chopper deal case

The Enforcement Directorate is all set to make the first provisional attachment of “proceeds of crime” in the Rs.3,700-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The attachment of movable and immovable assets is expected to be worth about Rs.3.5 crore, including the jewellery seized from the premises of accused Gautam Khaitan before his arrest in September for alleged role in routing kickback money.

Also, the ED has detected certain transactions purportedly benefiting Mr. Khaitan, from Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix and Mauritius-based Interstellar.

Following the money trail, the agency is learnt to have found that AgustaWestland and its parent Italian firm Finmeccanica had devised two separate routes involving three key middlemen to channelise the funds for paying kickbacks to several Indian entities who could help swing the deal for supply of 12 VVIP helicopters in its favour.

Preliminary investigations have suggested that the suppliers had kept aside about 10 per cent of the deal for the job.

The first chain involved alleged middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, through which over €20 million were transacted. The ED suspects that, to conceal the transactions, the suppliers in connivance with the middlemen decided to rope in Mohali-based IDS Infotech, which already had work contracts with AgustaWestland.

As advised by the alleged middlemen, AgustaWestland allegedly agreed to carry forward business with IDS-India on the condition that it set up a Tunisia subsidiary.

Between November 2007 and April 2010, IDS-India received €2.1 million from AgustaWestland. Although the money was being received through the Tunisia firm, work was being executed by IDS-India.

Mr. Haschke and Mr. Gerosa later acquired IDS-Tunisia, following which Aeromatrix was incorporated and the business of IDS Infotech was transferred to the new entity.

According to the ED case, 82 per cent Aeromatrix shares were held by Infotech Design System (IDS) Mauritius and 17 per cent by Mr. Khaitan.

In the entire process, the ED found, there was allegedly a significant difference between the bills raised by the companies for per-manpower remunerations and actual receipts. Besides, the suspected link between Interstellar, IDS Mauritius and a Singapore-based consultancy firm is also under investigation.

Probing agencies believe that through the same chain, former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi’s cousins Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep Tyagi received funds in the garb of consultancy contract with the middlemen duo’s Gordian Services (Tunisia).

The second route involved alleged British middleman Christian Michel, an elusive figure suspected to have strong links in the Indian political circles, who was allegedly paid over €30 million to help the suppliers bag the deal. The ED is learnt to have received some concrete leads in this regard.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 1:41:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ed-to-make-first-attachment-of-assets-in-vvip-chopper-deal-case/article6600361.ece

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