Partners Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, alleged middlemen in the AgustaWestland deal, had built such a complex maze of companies to route bribes to India that even after the probe began, they were confident no one would be caught. Phone conversations tapped by Italian authorities show that Haschke told Gerosa that even if investigations reached them, it would take agencies 10 years to reach Mauritius from where the money was being routed.
After the investigations began, they also discussed among themselves that a lawyer had advised them to “keep business as usual”, keep going to the AgustaWestland office and continue transfer of funds or else it would arouse suspicion and “would be an admission of guilt”.
The “guilt” was alleged payment of bribes that had begun in 2004, six years before the deal to supply 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to India was struck. The Tyagi brothers, cousins of former IAF chief S P Tyagi, had so convinced Haschke and AgustaWestland about swinging the deal in their favour that payments to them began in May 2004 itself, seven months before S P Tyagi became Air Chief Marshal.
These details are part of the prosecution complaint (chargesheet) filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against Delhi-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan and four others in connection with its money laundering probe into the Rs 3,600-crore chopper deal. The ED claims that Khaitan had a key role in moving the bribe money.
Quoting a recorded conversation dated March 3, 2012 between Haschke and Gerosa, which was presented in an Italian trial court, the prosecution complaint says: “Haschke and Gerosa state that even if investigation were to go ahead, it would be at least 10 years before money would be found in Mauritius. And that all the documentation relative to the relations between Haschke/Gerosa and AgustaWestland has already disappeared from their office in Lugano (Switzerland) and has been hidden in the house of Haschke’s mother, and the rest, Gerosa said he wanted to take to his house and hide in a wardrobe.”
Another conversation between the two shows that the group is worried about payments from AgustaWestland following the probe but feel that suspending payments would be an “admission of guilt”.
Gerosa: “No for argument’s sake, moreover, I don’t think they will stop paying completely now.” (The reference is to payments from AgustaWestland)
Haschke: “No I don’t think so.”
Gerosa: “It would be an admission of guilt.”
Haschke: “Not only would it be an admission of guilt, but it would also make us rebel, so that at that point we would have no interest to keep our mouths shut.”
Another conversation between Khaitan and Haschke outlines the nervousness in the group. Trying to calm Khaitan over the probe, Haschke says that he had cleaned his computer and made all documents and emails disappear. “There are no bank accounts directly connected to us in this country,” he tells Khaitan.
Haschke goes on: “…the lawyer told me not to stop going to AgustaWestland, just keep going with business as usual, as if nothing had happened, because otherwise it would look suspicious, why have you stopped? …And this is also the reason they will continue making all payments etc etc …business as usual, nothing, nothing …and stays perfectly clean.”
Haschke, who had been brought into the deal in 2004, allegedly by the Tyagi brothers by offering to swing the deal in favour of any company that he could bring to the table, was so confident of their abilities that he had begun payments to them from AgustaWestland in 2004 itself.
The prosecution complaint notes: “Tyagi brothers namely Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep, cousins of SP Tyagi, who had long acquaintance with Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa …entered into a consultancy contract with Gordan Services Sarl, Tunisia in 2004. Gordon Services was linked to Haschke and Gerosa. The Tyagi brothers received Euro 1.26 lakh after May, 2004 and Euro 2 lakh after February, 2005 …Tyagi brothers, including S P Tyagi, also received some amount in cash.”
According to ED, in the ‘offset’ (work to be mandatorily done in India) category, AgustaWestland set aside Euro 70 million which would be transferred to the companies floated by two groups of middlemen — one led by Haschke and Gerosa and the other led by Christian Michel.
“The real deal was, however, that of the 70 million euros, only 30 per cent would be utilised for actual work including engineering services and media handling while the rest would be diverted to pay bribes,” the official said.
To facilitate this, a maze of companies was set up to move money across borders and camouflage bribes. While Christian Michel set up Global Services FZE in Dubai, Haschke set up IDS Tunisia, IDS Mauritius and Aeromatrix.
Consequently, Michel was supposed to get Euro 42 million while Haschke was to be given Euro 28 million.
According to ED, the legitimate part of the offset money earmarked for Haschke by AgustaWestland went to IDS India (it was not part of middlemen maze). The bribe was sent to IDS Tunisia which subsequently sent it to IDS Mauritius. It was IDS Mauritius that allegedly paid the bribes to Tyagi brothers.
When IDS India sensed there was something wrong with the way the work was happening, the Haschke-led group, along with Khaitan, floated Aeromatrix which finally bought the engineering department of IDS India, the ED claimed.
Aeromatrix would receive orders for engineering services from AgustaWestland but would raise invoice to IDS Tunisia at the rate of Euro 14 per man hour. IDS Tunisia would further inflate the bills on the ground of added work and charge AgustaWestland at the rate of Euro 34 per man hour. This despite the fact that IDS Tunisia added no value to the product and had a total of one employee who was its director. This difference, says ED, was paid as bribes.
The ED is now hoping it would get a chance to interrogate Michel to unearth who all he paid bribes too.
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