Italian under probe was active in India defence sector

The consultant whose offices in Switzerland were raided earlier this week by Italian authorities as part of a probe into corruption in a copter deal with India is an "offsets expert" who has been very active in the Indian defence sector.

Guido Ralph Haschke, who claims to provide 'Project Advisory Services', has in the past few years worked with several Indian companies and individuals either interested in investing in Italian entities or hoping to forge offset partnerships with foreign firms that have won Indian defence contracts. He was also briefly on the board of directors of real estate giant Emaar-MGF.

As reports from Italy indicate, investigators are probing an alleged Euro 51 million contract that Haschke got from Finmeccanica the parent company of Agusta Westland that sold the VVIP choppers to India reportedly as "offsets plan" for the Indian deal. The allegation is that Euro 10 million from this was pumped back as slush fund and used to bribe Italian politicians. Italian investigators are following leads provided by a former top employee of the company, who used to handle international relations.

The Italian probe has again brought into question offsets contracts for the Rs 3,546 crore deal. As per the rules of defence procurement, foreign firms are obliged to invest more than 30 per cent of the value of any deal they bag into the Indian defence sector either public or private. In case of the helicopter deal, Agusta Westland has to invest over Rs 1,000 crore in the Indian defence production sector.

Earlier, the offsets package for the VVIP deal was alleged to involve indirect and illegal offsets in violation of rules.

The offsets have been complicated by the fact that the AW 101 chopper provided by Agusta Westland is a civilian variant making it hard to invest money in the form of offsets into the defence sector in India.

Insiders say not just in the offsets contract, Haschke had been active since the deal with India was inked in February 2010 and had been meeting Indian companies and investors. He was believed to have been working on behalf of Agusta Westland.

Finmeccanica refused to comment on its relationship with Haschke, telling The Indian Express that it was unable to offer any view as "the matter is under investigation". Haschke too did not comment on the matter.

Well-know in closeknit defence business circles of New Delhi, Haschke is the managing director of more than seven consultancy companies based in Europe. He is also the chairman of a Luxembourg-based company, Jorissa SA. His listed business address in Lugano, Switzerland, was among those raided by Italian investigators.

Educated in Milan, Italy, the 62-year-old consultant is believed to hold dual citizenship of Switzerland and the US. The company says it is in "no way connected with him or his businesses anymore". "Since his resignation, Emaar MGF has had no business links or association with him in any capacity. He did not attend any board meeting during his appointment and, therefore, never participated in any company decisions," a spokesperson told The Indian Express.

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