Mauritius company at centre of money trail
A complex web of companies and consulting firms spread across three countries has emerged as the route through which alleged kickbacks worth over 20 million euros for the VVIP chopper contract were distributed by the middlemen, with a Mauritius company emerging as the node through which most payments were made.
The probe into payments made by chopper firm AgustaWestland to Swiss-based middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa has led to a company registered in Port Louis, named Interstellar Technologies Limited, that Italian investigators say was used to route most of the payments to India, Switzerland, Singapore and Liechtenstein for allegedly bribing public officials and politicians among others.
While the CBI has named only two companies in its preliminary inquiry — IDS and Aeromatrix that received dubious engineering contracts from the chopper company — it may need to move fast on tracking Interstellar as the company is marked as being in the process of winding up, according to the companies registry of Mauritius.
A new investigation report from Italy reveals that a money chain has been established that brings out the route through which the middlemen managed to divert cash from the engineering contracts that they bagged from AgustaWestland.
While the company has consistently denied that it hired middlemen for the deal, here is how investigators believe the money was laundered to India and other nations:
* AW made payments worth a total of 19.227 million euros, as of April 16, 2012, to IDS Tunisia through the Arab Banking Corporation. The payments were meant for engineering services for AW129 and AW149 helicopters that were to be performed by Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix.
However, there are no records of actual work done corresponding to the payments made. In fact, investigators have recorded Haschke and Gerosa as worrying that if Indian investigators go into Aeromatrix's records of the past three years, they will find that the number of employees and the work done is minuscule compared to the payments made. As reported by The Indian Express in February, the duo discussed how the company can hire more engineers and make them "do nothing" to cloak the payments.