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Feb 19, 2013 at 11:00am IST

CBI team leaves for Italy to probe AgustaWestland chopper deal

New Delhi: A Central Bureau of Investigation team has left for Italy to probe the allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal. The team is expected to meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain details of the case.

Sources have told CNN-IBN that having exhausted diplomatic options, India is hiring a lawyer in Milan to explore the legal route to extract information from Italy as recommended by the embassy in Rome.

ALSO SEE Chopper deal: In tapped phone call, middleman says he destroyed evidence

Sources also say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will almost certainly take up the AgustaWestland case with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday.

An Italian criminal law expert has told CNN-IBN that CBI can meet the Italian prosecutor and sign an agreement to support the investigation. Criminal law professor of Bocconi University Alberto Alessandri in Milan spoke to CNN-IBN and said, "Investigation team of the Indian government has very little chance to support the investigation of public attorney. In this case I think the better solution is to have a meeting with the public prosecutor in order to set an agreement in which the Indian official can support investigation of public attorney."

ALSO SEE India deliberately avoiding investigation in the chopper deal: Prashant Bhushan

Meanwhile, CNN-IBN has accessed details of phone conversations between between the two Italian middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. The tapped phone conversations also reveal how Haschke claims he has destroyed all evidence of wrongdoing.

Haschke: I cleaned out every single paper from my office, completely cleaned out my computer. Actually I removed the old computer I had. I have a new computer where there is nothing. So even if they look for wiped out data, they won't find anything. And I am deleting all mail that passed through me from Carlo's server in office.

If he hadn't wiped out incriminating data, Haschke would have been caught and that is what he confessed to Gerosa.

Haschke: The important thing is that my name doesn't leak out.

Gerosa: Same here. You know you are the first link.

Haschke: I understand.

Gerosa: If they skip the first link then I'm in the middle of it.

In the repeated calls between Haschke and Gerosa, the murky Indian link too, is established.

Gerosa: I receive orders from (unclear) there in India, but this we can't say openly to Gautam.

Haschke: No, but he knows it well. His presence is not negotiable. The orders of recycling are passed from us to him, but the recycling is done by him. We are really a group dedicated to criminal ends.

Gerosa: You won't block the discourse on the other issue?

Haschke: Yes, that's what I thought. Because if Gautam fears Aeromatrix will get involved, he already told me, have you heard or not, Pravin is already agitated?

The questions that arise here are as to who are these people in India that Gerosa receives orders from? What is it that cannot be discussed openly? The two Indians mentioned in the conversation are Pravin Bakshi, CEO of Aeromatrix, and Gautam Khaitan, former Director of Aeromatrix, who has called all allegations baseless.

The calls also seem to bear out the Italian probe allegation that money was transferred from Italy to India through a company called IDS Tunisia - linked to Aeromatrix. Here is Haschke talking to an AugustaWestland employee Garavaglia Attilio:

Haschke: Garavaglia, hello.

Attilio: Yes.

Haschke: I am sending money to Pravin because naturally he needs it for the end of the year. He tells me he has spoken to you.

Garavaglio in turn speaks to a Tunisian contact Kammoun Hedi, one of the names being probed by the Italian police.

Hedi: Good morning, it's arrived! (referring to payment from Augustawestland to IDS Tunisia)

Garavaglia: It's arrived? Good.

Hedi: Yes, I'll send it all to Praveen immediately.

When contacted, Pravin Bakshi too refuted all allegations. "If there is so much of talk about a conspiracy then why hasn't any investigating agency contacted me," he questioned.

The details in these phone calls recorded by the Italian police suggest a deep and complex conspiracy. All hopes now are on the CBI to unravel the truth and reveal the big names that remain in the closet.

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