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Feb 24, 2013 at 09:49pm IST

Chopper deal: CBI team procures important documents from Italian authorities

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team that is in Italy to probe the tainted VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland claimed it has procured some important documents from Italian authorities on the case. The CBI team, however, is yet to bring the proof back to India.

The team, constituted of officials from the CBI, the Ministry of Defence and the External Affairs Ministry, said its meeting with the Italian Foreign Ministry officials, prosecutors and Finmeccanica management was fruitful.

However, It is not known if the information would be sufficient to file a preliminary enquiry report. The CBI team is also pinning its hope on the assurance made by the Italian government-controlled Finmeccanica group, parent company of AgustaWestland helicopters, that it would provide assistance in probing bribery allegations against some Indian nationals.

During the meeting, CBI officials had requested the Italian firm to hand over the report of its internal probe to them so that it could be examined in India and a proper investigation could be conducted. The CBI team along with officials from Defence and External Affairs Ministry had also met senior officials of the Italian judiciary including the judge in the case to request for assistance in probing the role of Indians in connection with alleged kickbacks in the deal.

Some more assistance would be provided after the local elections in Italy would be over this week, the team was told besides been conveyed that that the probe in that country was at a preliminary stage. The visiting team was also told that the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, chairman of the Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, Chief Executive officer of AgustaWestland, was more of a preventive nature so that they did not tamper with evidence.

CBI has already hired two law firms -- Chiomenti and Grippo -- to help in coordinating with the Italian authorities for getting documents and other relevant material pertaining to the deal for supplying 12 helicopters to India. The two law firms have been appointed keeping in mind their work in international cases.

Chiomenti law firm was established in 1948 and has 270 attorneys in six countries including in London. Grippo law firm with 360 attorneys has a presence in five countries including the UK.

The CBI's decision to send a team to Italy came after it virtually drew a blank from the Defence Ministry in getting information required for its probe. The CBI was handed over a letter from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe by it in the case which has triggered a political storm in the country.

Attached with the letter were some Indian and Italian press clippings, which, the CBI said, could not form the basis for registering a case. This was followed by CBI seeking help of Interpol which also expressed inability to provide any help in the absence of any regular case not having been registered by the agency, they said.

(With Additional Inputs From PTI)