Middleman talks of Tunisia firm link to 'senior Tata executive'

FP

Italian investigators probing money trail in the VVIP chopper deal kickbacks have stumbled upon the name of a suspected top Tata Steel executive. He figures in the conversation between one of the key accused middlemen and AgustaWestland officials, where they are discussing their line of defence before the prosecutors.

The name crops up in the context of a company being set up in Tunisia, with Switzerland-based middleman Guido Haschke claiming that it is a buffer company that will not directly link him to the chopper firm. An Italian investigation report, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, notes that "the link to Tunisia is important as AgustaWestland is paying Haschke's 'dues' in Tunisia".

The man is named in the conversation as "Partha" and Italian investigators have noted in the report that the reference seems to be to Partha Sengupta, vice-president of Tata Steel, who is alleged to have been in regular touch with top Agusta official Bruno Spagnolini, who is among those arrested in Italy.

Sengupta denied any association with the persons named in the report in reply to a detailed questionnaire sent by The Indian Express. "I have no knowledge or association with any of the persons you have mentioned. I have no personal or business dealings with them," he said.

While the Tatas have a joint venture with AgustaWestland to build choppers in Hyderabad, the company has denied any link with marketing, sales or representation of any product of the Italian company. They have said they do not envisage any impact on the proposed joint venture.

As per the Italian investigation report, Haschke and Spagnolini had a detailed conversation on how to hide the former's link with AgustaWestland and discussed how Partha helped set up a company in Tunisia.

Excerpts from a conversation secretly recorded by prosecutors on March 5, 2012, allegedly in the bugged Audi A 6 car belonging to Haschke:

... contd.

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