In an unusual confrontation in an Italian court that is hearing the VVIP chopper deal corruption case, the prosecution has blamed the Indian side for failing to share crucial tender documents pertaining to the dubious selection of the AgustaWestland helicopters for the Rs 3,546 crore contract.
This comes as a surprise, given that India, represented by the CBI and the defence ministry, is a party to the case and is considered to be as one of the plaintiffs. Perceived non-cooperation by the Indian side has led the prosecution lawyers to blame the CBI for not responding to one of Italy’s letter rogatories dated April 1, 2013 for sharing of tender information as well as documents related to the procurement of choppers.
In response to the accusation by the prosecution lawyers that documents that were integral to the tender were not shared even one year after the request was made, the Indian side is believed to have said that it is not taking sides in the case and is “only interested in the truth”.
This stance taken by the Indian side prompted a strong reaction from the hearing magistrate who is believed to have raised a question that by being an aggrieved party in the case, the Indian government is in fact on the side of the public prosecutor and is expected to help in the case.
The prosecution lawyer has also said in court that they are surprised about this perceived lack of cooperation given that the Italian side has shared all its investigation documents, recordings and conclusions with Indian investigators.
However, a CBI official told The Indian Express that the agency had shared all available documents with the Italian side and if any more information is sought, cooperation shall be extended fully.
Meanwhile, Joseph Di Venere, the chief investigator who put together a critical part of the case, reconstructed the investigation in court, connecting the document recovered in the jail cell of former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi that talked about getting then Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to “call” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to earlier documents recovered from middleman Guido Haschke that urged targeting of senior Indian political leaders to lobby for the contract.
Venere said that these documents included one that named Sonia Gandhi and her key adviser Ahmed Patel as people who needed to be “targeted”.
On the part of the defence, Orsi’s letter has said in court that the document recovered from the jail cell referred to a communication by the tainted CEO urging the Italian PM to request the Indian PM not the cancel the deal as his arrest was not a final verdict on the case.