Chop-a-deal

The Sunday Story

The helicopters were to join India's VVIP aircraft fleet, which already has five Embraer 135 jets and three Boeing VVIP aircraft, in 2012. But earlier this year, Italian investigators began probing allegations that AgustaWestland paid a commission of Euro 51 million (over Rs 350 crore) to Switzerland-based consultant Guido Ralph Haschke to facilitate the India deal.

As Italy continues to probe the men and methods used to allegedly launder money, the Agusta deal points to an elaborate network of agents, businessmen, government officials and even politicians in India who could be involved in swinging the deal.

As reported by The Indian Express in a series of articles, the names of several Indians have already surfaced in the preliminary inquiry report that has been filed by Italian investigators in a court in Naples.

The investigation started last year after an open succession war between Francesco Guarguanglini, who was then heading Finmeccanica, the parent company of Agusta, and his successor, Giuseppe Orsi, who now heads the Italian company. Meanwhile, late last year, Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government, which had as coalition partners parties such as the far-right Lega Nord (now alleged to have received kickbacks to swing the deal in Italy), was replaced by one led by technocrat Mario Monti. This prompted Lorenzo Borgogni, a former top employee of Finmeccanica and an Orsi-baiter, to blow the whistle on Agusta's deal with the Indian government. Borgogni told prosecutors in a detailed statement that kickbacks were paid by AgustaWestland for the Indian contract through the use of middlemen and that the total amount came up to Euro 51 million.

Borgogni detailed how the money was paid through a network of middlemen and consultants, with the main allegation being that at least Euro 10 million was funnelled back to Italy and paid to the Lega Nord party in return for its support to Orsi's bid to become president of Finmeccanica.

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