Consultant in chopper deal held in Europe

FP

Police in Switzerland have arrested a man who was raided by Italian authorities this year for allegedly taking a suspicious 51 million-euro commission in a deal to sell a fleet of high-end helicopters to the Indian government.

Guido Ralph Haschke, a 62-year-old consultant who claims to provide "Project Advisory Services", was arrested on Friday on charges that include money laundering. The Italians suspect he got the multi-million euro commission from helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland to influence politicians and decision makers in Italy and India.

India had in 2010 signed a Rs 3,546 crore deal with AgustaWestland to purchase 12 AW 101 choppers for use by VVIPs including the President and Prime Minister. Reports from Italy over the weekend said investigators have asked the Swiss for Haschke's custody.

Haschke is active in the Indian defence sector, and is a director in a Chandigarh-based firm called Aeromatrix, an "engineering and design support services organization" that works in areas that include aerospace. He was earlier on the board of Emaar MGF as an independent and non-executive director.

The Indian Express reported in April that Haschke has over the last few years got involved in the Indian defence offsets business, and has had dealings with several Indian firms and individuals in the military business.

Aeromatrix, which has 82 per cent foreign holding and claims an authorised capital of Rs 75 lakh, lists an Italian businessman called Carlo Gerosa as another of its directors. It has emerged that investigators secretly recorded a conversation between Gerosa, Haschke and two other individuals while there were travelling together in a car near Geneva in Switzerland.

This conversation, which is among several other recordings and phone intercepts that have been placed in court by the Naples-based prosecutor probing the case, allegedly contains extensive references to the Indian helicopter deal, and names of Indians and Italians who were allegedly involved in "facilitating" it.

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