Carlo Gerosa, an Italian national who is one of the key accused in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal corruption case, has been arrested in Italy by local authorities, according to official sources.
Gerosa was detained a few days ago on his return from Switzerland based on a Red Corner Notice request from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing a case of alleged money-laundering in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore deal, sources said.
The ED is likely to soon send an extradition request to Italy for Gerosa, 70, who is one of the three alleged middlemen wanted in the case, sources said.
A joint team of the ED and the CBI is investigating the case, for which Gerosa’s interrogation and statement will be crucial.
In 2014, India scrapped the contract with AgustaWestland, the British subsidiary of Italian defence major Finmeccanica, for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contract and charges of kickbacks of Rs 423 crore.
In July this year, the CBI arrested former IAF chief S P Tyagi along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and businessman Gautam Khaitan for their alleged involvement in the case — the ED has already filed multiple chargesheets on the deal.
According to the ED, Gerosa and another middleman Guido Haschke allegedly set up a maze of companies to move money to India to be paid to relatives of Tyagi and several others to help swing the deal.
The ED’s chargesheet claims that AgustaWestland set aside Euro 70 million in the “offset” category — work to be completed in India — to be transferred to companies floated by two groups, one led by Haschke and Gerosa and the other by a third middleman Christian Michel.
According to official sources, only 30 per cent was to be utilised for actual work, including engineering services and media handling, while the rest was allegedly to be “diverted to pay bribes”.
To facilitate this plan, sources said, a maze of companies was set up to move money across borders and camouflage bribes. While Michel set up Global Services FZE in Dubai, Haschke set up IDS Tunisia, IDS Mauritius and Aeromatrix. Michel was to get Euro 42 million while Haschke was to be given Euro 28 million, the ED has alleged.
“The bribe was sent to IDS Tunisia, which subsequently sent it to IDS Mauritius. It was IDS Mauritius that paid the bribes to Tyagi brothers,” official sources claimed.
The ED had notified an Interpol RCN against Gerosa, Michel and Haschke last year. In its second chargesheet filed last year, it alleged that the three middlemen “managed” to make inroads into the IAF to influence and subvert criteria to favour AgustaWestland. It alleged that the company became eligible for the bid after the IAF reduced the altitude cap of the helicopters from 6,000m to 4,500m in 2005
According to the ED, its probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act found that AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini was allegedly paid “kickbacks” to Michel, Gerosa and Haschke in the form of “consultancy contracts”.
The probe gathered pace last year after a Milan-based court sentenced Finmeccanica’s former chief Giuseppe Orsi and Spagnolini on corruption charges in the sale of the helicopters to India. The court order also referred to former IAF chief Tyagi.
The ED and the CBI have send official communications to a number of countries to gather more leads and evidence in the case.