Agent influenced ministry to alter copter specification

Agent influenced ministry to alter copter specification

An AgustaWestland company agent had allegedly influenced the Indian Defence Ministry to alter specifications for VVIP copter acquisition to ensure that the Italian firm becomes eligible to participate in the tender process.

This and other details are contained in a preliminary information report prepared by Italian investigating agencies on  the Rs 3,600-crore copter deal with India. The report was  submitted to a tribunal in Naples on July 4, 2012, almost a year after the probe began.

The documents accessed  by Deccan Herald reveal that 53-year-old Swiss defence agent of AugustaWestland, Guido Ralph Haschke, and his partner Gerosa Carlo played a dubious role by rigging the process to ensure that the company bags the contract for supplying 12 AW-101 copters.

In connection with the investigations, Italian prosecutors recently arrested chief of defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, after launching a probe way back in 2011 into the helicopter deal. AgustaWestland is an arm of Finmeccanica.

Of the 12 VVIP helicopters AgustaWestland was to supply to India, only three have been received and the delivery of remaining has been shelved due to the scam. The Indian government has ordered a CBI inquiry into the scam.

Apart from Haschke, English middleman Christian Michel was also employed by the Italian supplier to clinch the deal, despite the fact that commission agents are not allowed in defence deals in India.

Of the 15 people under the scanner of Italian investigators, two are Indians – Sanjeev Kumar Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan. But, the investigators have not named other Indians who figure in their investigations. They have just called them “Indian businessmen” and “a person from the Indian defence”.

One of the business partners of Haschke, Messina Carmelo, in his official statement to authorities on May 14, 2012, said that Haschke “told me that he managed to convince the Indians, or actually the Ministry of Defence, to reconsider the features of the helicopters so that Italian helicopters too could take part in the tender”.

Carmelo later told the interrogators that he confirmed though a friend (he calls him as Zappa), who said Haschke was speaking truth that “Indian ministry of defence had really modified the technical features of the helicopters so that Agustawestland could participate”.

Earlier, the copters Augasta had offered were not “compatible with the technical features” of the India’s requirement, Carmelo had divulged in his confession.

Other than that, “..they (defence agents) are in touch with important Indian businessmen, military authorities and people of the establishment. They managed the initial stage of the tender, the allocation, technical-economical-financial aspects and accounting operations to justify the payment of commission (51 million Euros) to many people including Haschke Gerosa, Orsi, Spagnolini, Indian individuals etc thus leading to money laundering, money coming from international corruption,” the documents revealed.

This is contrary to claims made by the defence ministry that there is no hanky panky in the deal.

The Rs 3,600-crore deal was conceptualised during the tenure of NDA regime when George Fernandes was the defence minister and the Air Staff Qualitative Requirement (ASQR) were changed in 2003, ministry officials had said on Wednesday.

Among the major altering of the tender requirements, done to help the Italians, was to reduce the air ceiling from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet. 

The Request for Proposal was issued in 2006 and the deal between the defence ministry and AgustaWestland International Ltd (UK) was signed on February 8, 2010 for supply of 12 AW-101 model choppers at 556 million euros, as per Italian investigation. 

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