Ex-IAF pilot among 3 Indians named in VVIP helicopter probe

FP

Three Indians are among 15 people being probed by the Italian police in connection with the suspected payment of bribes and money laundering in the deal for VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force from AgustaWestland, a preliminary report submitted to a court in Naples has said.

The 568-page report, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, contains extensive details of the investigation into the Rs 3,546 crore deal and covers several businessmen, consultants and employees, including Indians. While the probe is still on, a preliminary inquiry report was given to the Naples Tribunal in July.

Besides alleged middlemen Guido Haschke and Christian Michel, the report given to the Naples court names Praveen Bakshi, the chief officer of Chandigarh-based firm Aeromatrix, Gautam Khaitan, a Delhi lawyer who represents Aeromatrix, and Sanjeev Kumar Tyagi, a Delhi businessman and former air force pilot, as those being investigated. Aeromatrix, a services company which specialises in aerospace, among others, is owned by Haschke and his partner Carlo Gerosa, who is also being probed.

The report, which includes intercepted phone calls and transcripts of conversations recorded through bugs planted on Haschke, makes a strong case for investigating allegations that politicians and officials were bribed in Italy and India to ensure the deal goes through. It has several references to the above mentioned names in phone conversations and other recordings. The report says Girasalo Paolo, the India-head of the helicopter company, is also being probed.

Bakshi and Khaitan, when reached for their comment by The Indian Express, denied they had any role in dealings related to the defence business. Bakshi said he is an officer of the company performing administrative roles and heard about the VVIP helicopter deal only from media reports. Khaitan, who is currently abroad, said he was in touch with Haschke as his attorney and is in no way involved in or aware of any defence dealings. Tyagi could not be reached for his comment.

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