New Delhi: The Defence Ministry on Tuesday referred the Augusta Westland bribery allegations case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The development came after the Italian police arrested the head of Italian government-controlled defence group Finmeccanica SpA on February 12. According to sources, the delivery of the remaining nine of 12 choppers is also slated to be put on hold in wake of the arrest.
Finmeccanica Chief Executive and Chairman Giuseppe Orsi was arrested for alleged bribes paid to secure the sale of 12 AgustaWestland executive aircraft when he was head of the Finmeccanica helicopter unit, the source said.
Police were searching the defence contractor's offices in Italy's financial capital Milan, police sources said.
The sale of Augusta Westland helicopters to the Indian Air Force has been probed for possible kickbacks. In October, the Italian authorities had reportedly recorded conversations between the India head of the helicopter manufacturer, Finmeccanica, and a middleman.
The deal to purchase 12 VVIP helicopters for Rs 3500 crores is already under a cloud with the Ministry of Defence seeking probe reports from Italian authorities. Italian prosecutors have been investigating a series of corruption charges against Finmeccanica.
They say they have strong proof of the commission paid to middleman Guido Haschke through Mauritius and Tunisia. Swiss-based consultant Haschke was paid 51 million euros to swing the Indian deal. They also claim to have taped conversations between Haschke and some Indian nationals. Haschke and and his partner own a Chandigarh-based services company called Aeromatrix.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI and Reuters)