The investigation into the Rs 3,546 crore deal involving the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters for Indian VVIPs appears to have entered a crucial phase with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) scrutinising about 180 documents recovered from a computer and later asking Delhi Police to probe alleged tampering of evidence.
The documents were recovered during a search operation conducted on September 23 in New Delhi at the residence and offices of businessman Gautam Khaitan in connection with the chopper deal.
The hard disk of the computer, which was being operated by an employee of Khaitan, Manish Jain, was “cloned” to recover the documents. But ED officials later discovered that all the files on the original disk had been erased and filed a complaint in this regard with Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) on October 13.
“The forensic report from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory had indicated that the hardware (of the computer) was possibly tampered with. Following the report, the ED conducted an internal inquiry and decided to lodge a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police to probe if any ED officials were involved,” officials from the directorate told The Indian Express.
The officials, however, added that printouts of documents recovered from the cloned hard disk have also been taken and “there is no loss of evidence due to tampering”.
The recovered documents, meanwhile, reveal an account belonging to a family member of Khaitan and shows a transaction of 50,000 Euros with a bank account in Mauritius.
ED sources said that an application is now being moved in court under section 17(4) of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to extend the custody of the documents to examine them for “further leads”.
The ED is investigating a possible money trail that could lead to the alleged kickbacks paid by middlemen to clinch the helicopter deal, and has arrested Khaitan whose companies were allegedly used to route the money in India.
Besides Khaitan, ED has also booked ex-IAF chief S P Tyagi and his family members; European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke; four firms – Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix; two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia; and other unnamed officials. The investigating agency has already questioned Sanjeev “Julie” Tyagi, one of the three brothers who are cousins of the former air force chief and who are believed to have ties to the deal.
On October 9, an Italian court had acquitted Giuseppe Orsi, the former CEO and president of Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, the former head of the helicopter division of AgustaWestland, from charges of corruption. But it convicted the two for “false invoicing”, according to the Italian news agency Ansa. “The documents are being investigated to see if they lead towards these false invoices that have been referred to in the Italian court’s verdict. We are waiting for the copy of the verdict as well,” an official said.