UPA rolled out red carpet for arms dealer in 2005

The Manmohan Singh government had rolled out a red carpet for an AgustaWestland agent who visited the national capital seven years ago as part of erstwhile Italian president Calo Azeglio Ciampi’s official delegation.

Haschke had accompanied Ciampi to India in February 2005, revealed the Italian government’s probe into the Rs 3,600 crore copter deal. The former president was also accompanied by wife Franca and other ministers and officials, during his four-day state visit here from February 12, 2005. A release issued by the External Affairs Ministry then did not name the members of the delegation.

Refering to a bugged conversation between the agent and senior AgustaWestland employes Spagnolini Bruno and Digennaro Francesco, the Italian investigation revealed that Haschke claimed to have been a member of the Italian delegation during Ciampi’s India visit.

The prosecutors have tried to question him but he has been avoiding them.

Haschke, who allegedly played a crucial role in tailoring the tender requirements to suite AgustaWestland, is a resident of Lugano in Switzerland. The 62-year-old businessman also holds an US and a Italian pass port.

During the probe in Italy, one of Haschke’s associates, Messina Carmelo, unravelled the web of Indian contacts used by Haschkehe to facilitate AgustaWestland. Carmelo’s statement throws light on how Haschke became a consultant for Agusta after securing the deal. Interestingly, Haschke succeeded when Agusta’s previous representative, Michel, failed.

Carmelo also said Haschke had good relations with a person in the Indian defence. “I never knew the name but I think he was an important person of the defence, may be from the Army,” he had said. Haschke had met the contact in the Indian defence establishment during his studies in America, the report pointed out.

According to the information collected by the Italian investigators, Borgogni Lorenzo, who was looking after Augusta’s foreign affairs, had confessed on November 15, 2011, that 51 million euros (around Rs 362 crore) was paid as bribe to Haschke and Michel, who distributed the money among other associates. “So the money comes out of Agusta and goes to Haschke and Michel, and from Michel to Orsi, and from Orsi to Lega and CL,” Lorenzo had said.

Lega Nord and CL (the Italian political party Comunione e Liberazione) have been referred to as the entities who helped Orsi become the CEO of Finmeccanica before his arrest. Interestingly, the bribe amount was just 41 million euros initially but it was increased by another 10 million euros at the behest of Haschke.

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