Chopper deal kickbacks: 'India changed tech requirements to help Italian firm'

FP

India allegedly tweaked the technical requirements in the tender to procure 12 VVIP helicopters for the Air Force to help Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland enter the race, an associate of the suspected middleman in the deal has alleged in his confession to Italian prosecutors.

In his testimony, the associate of Guido Haschke said the AW 101 chopper did not qualify initially as the requirements were being drawn by India in 2006. They were allegedly tweaked after Haschke struck a deal with the Italian company.

Investigations have also found that the Indian businessman named by Italian prosecutors — Sanjeev Kumar (Julie) Tyagi — is closely related to former air chief marshal S P Tyagi, who was heading the force when the tender was floated in December 2006.

S P Tyagi is a first cousin of Julie, a Delhi-based businessman. He is one of three Indians being probed for suspected corruption in the Rs 3,546 crore deal.

The retired officer confirmed he was related to Julie but said they had no business links. Julie could not be reached for comment. Reached for its comment, the IAF did not respond until going to press.

In his May 14 confession, business consultant Carmelo Messina says he put Haschke and his partner Carlos Gerosa in touch with AgustaWestland in 2006 to facilitate the Indian contract. He says Haschke was keen to get in touch with AgustaWestland as he "claimed he had deep knowledge of the Indian market".

"Haschke said he had good relations with a person from Indian defence. I think he met him during his studies in America," the statement says. Messina said Haschke boasted about his connections and claimed to have insider information that could help the Italian firm.

Messina says AgustaWestland figured out its choppers would not qualify for the contract after it contacted Haschke. He says Haschke managed to get the requirements changed to accommodate AgustaWestland.

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