Lens on chopper firmís India head over commission


The India head of helicopter manufacturer Finmeccanica, which is being probed for alleged corruption in a deal to sell VVIP choppers to the Air Force, has come under the scanner of Italian authorities who tapped his phone conversations with the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,546 crore contract.

Italian prosecutors, who have been investigating a series of corruption charges against Finmeccanica, tapped the phone of alleged middleman Guido Haschke as part of the probe into the deal and have informed the court that they found strong clues that a part of the commission paid was routed through Mauritius and Tunisia. Investigators also claim to have taped conversations between Haschke and unnamed Indian individuals.

Details of the Italian probe into the deal are contained in a 100-page court order issued by the Tribunal of Naples Tuesday on the detention of former commercial director of Finmeccanica, Paolo Pozzessere. The Indian defence ministry has so far only sought 'reports' on the probe in Italy from the embassy in Rome.

While the court order, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, mainly focuses on Pozzessere's dealings in selling military equipment to Panama and Brazil, a section is devoted to the controversial Indian deal for 12 helicopters.

In this section, the court has noted that Italian investigators are probing allegations that Swiss-based consultant Haschke was paid 51 million euros to swing the Indian deal and that a part of it - 10 million euros - was routed back to Italy and distributed to a political party.

However, responding to the court order, Finmeccanica said in a statement that the group or any of its companies "have not paid any form of compensation for mediation connected" with the contracts in question. It has said that Pozzessere stood aside as commercial director of Finmeccanica Group in September 2011 and had since been assigned a role in Russia, as part of industrial activities relating to partnerships in the regional aircraft and defence electronics sectors.

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