'Middleman' Haschke held in Switzerland

CBIThe CBI has sent a letter to the Indian embassy in Italy seeking details on the arrest.
In a significant breakthrough into the Rs 3,586-crore VVIP chopper deal case, alleged middleman Guido Ralph Haschke has been arrested by the Switzerland authorities on the request of Italy. The CBI has sent a letter to the Indian embassy in Italy seeking details on the arrest.

According to the CBI, the arrest was made in Switzerland Thursday on the request of the Italian authorities probing allegations of bribery in the contract for 12 VVIP helicopters. Haschke is among the 13 accused booked by the CBI in connection with the corruption case. He is likely to be extradited to Italy next week after which the CBI will also press for his custodial interrogation in Italy. A CBI-MoD team has already joined the probe by the Italian authorities.

The CBI will also send a judicial request to Italy for detailed information on the statements given by the accused who are in the custody of the authorities there. The agency said they will also take up the extradition of all the accused who are in the custody of the Italian authorities.

The corruption in VVIP chopper deal was first reported by The Indian Express after which the contract with AgustaWestland has been put on hold.

It is alleged that Agusta paid kickbacks to Indian officials — including former IAF chief S P Tyagi — to clinch the deal. Swiss-American Haschke is one of the accused named in the FIR filed by the CBI.

"Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa (both alleged middlemen) managed to send 5.6 million euros through Mohali-based IDS Infotech and Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix Info Solutions Private Ltd to India and kept the remaining amount of about 24.30 million euros received from AgustaWestland with themselves in the account of IDS Tunisia," the CBI said in its FIR.

The Italian prosecutor, who carried out the preliminary inquiry, has alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of the UK-based AgustaWestland, had used services of middlemen to bribe Indian officials.

The CBI, which carried out the probe in India, has named 13 individuals, including Tyagi, Gerosa, Christian Michel and Haschke, in the FIR as accused in connection with the alleged bribery.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said the government is aware of the developments and the CBI is carrying out investigations. "If the Ministry of External Affairs is required to facilitate, we will facilitate," she said.

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