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Feb 13, 2013 at 08:09am IST

India's chopper deal with Italian firm AgustaWestland caught in the corruption net

New Delhi: In a big development in Italy that may have huge repercussions in India, the head of Italian defence group Finmeccanica, the owners of AgustaWestland, has been arrested over ongoing corruption investigations into his group.

Finmeccanica Chief Executive and Chairman Giuseppe Orsi was arrested in connection with the deal wherein Rs 4000 crore of bribes were allegedly paid to secure a helicopter contract in 2010.

Reacting to the development, the Ministry of Defence referred the AgustaWestland bribery deal to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The flying machines were purchased by the Indian government in 2010 for over $550 million, and now the sale of the 12 VVIP choppers is turning out to be a potential embarrassment for the Indian government.

CNN-IBN has in its possession the chargesheet which was filed by Italian investigators in 2012 in court of Naples. In the chargesheet, there are details of tapped conversations between different Italian middlemen, involved in the deal of selling of AgustaWestland choppers.

The two middlemen who were being monitored are Guido Haschke and Christian Michael. The allegation against them is that kickbacks worth $41 million were allegedly paid to them in collusion with officials in the Defence Ministry to clear the deal.

About the Indian connection of the middlemen, the chargesheet says, "...built up privileged links with India that allowed them, for example, to route a contract like the sale of 12 helicopters between AgustaWestland and the Indian government, being able to count on important businessmen in India, military authorities and some institutions that as we will see have had a fundamental role in the management of this business...subsequent contracts and accounting operations made out artfully with the aim of justifying the payment of the kickback (51 million Euro) to the entire organisation from Haschke, to Gerosa, Orsi, Spagnolini, Indian persons etc..."

The multi-million dollar chopper deal first came under the scanner when reports came in of the VVIP choppers not being able to fly at the mandatory height of 6000 metre.

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