Friday, December 6, 2013

Key middleman tells court in Italy: Commission split with Tyagi brothers

THE key middleman in the alleged VVIP chopper kickbacks scandal, who has been accused of conspiring to fix the Rs 3,546 crore deal, has claimed that he knew in advance about the change in the qualitative requirements of the contract and that the plan was to divide a commission of 7 per cent with the three "Tyagi brothers" — cousins of then Air Chief S P Tyagi.

Responding to questions in court in Busto Arsizio in Italy on Monday, Guido Haschke, a Swiss businessman who is one of the main accused in the case, claimed he knew the Tyagi brothers — Julie, Docsa and Sandeep — well and that he helped set up a key meeting between an AgustaWestland official and S P Tyagi to discuss the contract through these connections.

Haschke, his business partner Carlo Gerosa and British middleman Christian Michel are the main accused in the alleged 51 million euro kickbacks scandal. Haschke has spoken about his role in fixing the deal in the past but this is the first time he has shared details in a court.

Monday was the first day of his questioning in court and he is to be quizzed again on December 6.

The MoD is likely to scrap the contract for the 12 choppers and has issued a final showcause notice to the Anglo-Italian manufacturer. Defence Minister A K Antony has said that there has been wrongdoing and has made it clear there is no question of joining an arbitration process initiated by the company.

But in its reply, AgustaWestland last week claimed that no wrong has been done and that it has not violated the stringent integrity contract.

Although the former Air Chief and his cousins have been named in the CBI FIR in the case, all four have maintained they did not play any dubious role in the contract.

Haschke said he first learnt about the chopper deal much before it was officially floated by India in 2005 due to his association with the Tyagi family. He told the court that the Tyagi family was very well connected and that the three cousins asked if he could arrange contacts with either European consortium EADS or AgustaWestland's Italian parent Finmeccanica to "supply" the choppers.

The mediator told the court that he did not have any contact with EADS but managed to get through to Finmeccanica and arranged meetings with the Tyagis. Although Haschke said the Tyagi brothers flaunted their strong connections with then Air Chief S P Tyagi, he did not specify if the now-retired officer had assured him of winning the contract.

Haschke has also claimed that the alleged commission money - fixed initially at 7 per cent - was to be paid to the Indian partners through a shell company called IDS Tunisia.

According to the testimony, the money was to be allegedly divided between Haschke, Gerosa and S P Tyagi's three cousins.

Haschke told prosecutors he knew well in advance that the key requirement of the operating altitude of the chopper that had initially disqualified AgustaWestland would be toned down to allow the Italian firm participate in the bid.

As first reported by The Indian Express, Haschke had in a detailed statement to Italian investigators claimed last year how he got in touch with Indian middlemen and planned a complicated kickbacks channel through the Italian firm by opening a series of shell companies.

At the centre of the alleged payback channel was a Tunisia-based engineering firm, IDS, through which money was routed to various entities around the world, including in Mauritius and Singapore, before it finally found its way to India.

A part of the money was also allegedly diverted to the British Virgin Islands from where it made its way to Switzerland.
Manu Pubby : New Delhi, Tue Dec 03 2013, 09:52 hrs

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