DAYS after the Swiss authorities arrested a suspected middleman in the deal to sell VVIP helicopters to India,the anti-corruption probe into chopper manufacturer AgustaWestland has widened with Italian prosecutors now arresting a top former employee who was in charge of foreign sales.
Investigators in Italy have placed the former commercial director of the firm in charge of sales to foreign companies under arrest,implicating him in two deals to sell military equipment to Brazil and Panama. The official,Paolo Pozzessere,is the first former top employee of AgustaWestland to be placed under arrest.
While there are no indications yet that Paolos arrest will have implications for the Indian VVIP chopper contract that is also under investigation,reports from Italy suggest that his is the first of several interesting developments that are likely to take place over the next few weeks as part of the anti-corruption probe into the chopper manufacturer.
Italian investigators have been probing several cases of alleged malpractices in the chopper manufacture relating to bribing of foreign government officials to bag military contracts. Besides the Brazil and Panama deals,investigators are focusing on the Rs 3,546-crore deal to sell 12 VVIP helicopters to the Indian government in February 2010.
A detailed chargesheet has been filed against Paolo in an Italian court that details the charges against him that he helped facilitate the sale of helicopters and military boats to Panama and Brazil,respectively.
On Friday,Swiss authorities had placed consultant Guido Haschke under arrest as part of the Italian investigations that focused on a Euro 51-million commission paid to him for allegedly influencing Indian and Italian officials to bag the lucrative VVIP helicopter deal.