Probe team to request Italy for access to whistleblower

The three-member CBI-MoD team slated to fly to Italy Sunday in connection with the VVIP helicopter deal scam is seeking to interview Borgogni Lorenzo, the former employee of employee of Finmeccanica, who blew the whistle on the AgustaWestland deal.

The CBI, in the absence of a mutual legal assistance treaty with Italy, will use "assurance of reciprocity" to seek help from Italian authorities.

Not having a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Italy India has such a treaty with only 35 countries is an impediment for investigators to seek information from Italy regarding the deal. Legal experts said Italy may reject the assurance of reciprocity as there are reports that an Italian court has refused to share the information with India.

The CBI team to Italy will comprise a law officer and a deputy inspector general while the Defence Ministry has deputed joint secretary level officer A K Bal.

Besides Lorenzo, the team has also sought permission to examine officials of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland. The team will also meet Italian prosecutors and seek access to documents gathered by them during a year-long probe.

Last week, Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Finmeccanica, was arrested by Italian authorities on charges of corruption and embezzlement in connection with the deal. In its communication to Italy through the Indian mission, CBI has explained that bribery in defence procurement attracts charges under prevention of corruption act and Indian Penal code, which are criminal in nature and attracts term in jail as well as fine.

The CBI is also seeking the help of Interpol in Italy to expedite the process of getting documents regarding the probe. The CBI said that since there was insufficient material to register a preliminary enquiry or an FIR, it has decided to send a team of CBI-MoD officials.

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