Alleged kickbacks made by helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland to secure a €560 million defense deal with India’s government in March 2010 were filtered partly through Tunisia, according to Italian media citing investigative documents.
Two Switzerland-based intermediaries – Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa – are suspected of effectuating bribe payments through phony contracts between Tunisia-registered companies to others in India.
Two software companies – IDS Tunisia and IDS India – along with Mauritius-based holding company Aeromatrix have been singled out as being among the channels through which bribes were transferred, report Italian and Indian media.
Investigators believe that such alleged payments aimed to swing a bid to supply India with 12 VVIP helicopters for government transport in AgustaWestland’s favor.
AgustaWestland won the bid in 2010 and has furnished India with only three of the 12 helicopters so far.
Another alleged middleman in the corruption scandal is UK national Christian Michel, who runs Global Trade and Commerce. He also allegedly funneled millions of euros on behalf of AgustaWestland and Italian company Finmeccanica to bribe Indian officials, including S.P. Tyagi, former head of the Indian Air Force.
Finmeccanica – a high technology company specializing in aerospace, defense, and security – is the parent company of Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland.
The payoffs made by AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica may add up to €51 million, according to media reports of investigative documents.
Corruption charges were first leveled against AgustaWestland in early 2012. However, the case took a major turn on February 11 when Italian authorities arrested CEO of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, along with AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini.
In the wake of Orsi and Spagnolini’s arrests, India’s Ministry of Defense suspended payments to AgustaWestland. In addition, the country’s Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) took up the case to investigate Indian officials suspected of receiving bribes to finesse the helicopter deal. CBI investigators are expected to travel to Italy this week to meet with prosecutors in Rome.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken political heat from opposition parties and declared to reporters Monday, “We have nothing to hide.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron met Singh in New Delhi Tuesday during the former’s official visit to India, and the corruption probe into the Anglo-Italian company was discussed by the two leaders.
In the press conference after their meeting, Singh said that he shared with his English counterpart “very serious concerns” regarding the allegations against AgustaWestland. Cameron in turn promised that his government would cooperate in the investigation over India’s acquisition of helicopters from the Anglo-Italian manufacturer.