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Millennium Post

Has UPA scrapped a deal gone wrong?

India’s cancelling of the contract for 12 VVIP AW101 helicopters from the Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland might appear to be, at first sight, an act of coming down heavily on erring foreign manufacturers, but that might just be the flimsy smokescreen to hide years of misconducts.

Although the Rs 3,650 crore deal is now officially scrapped and as AK Antony ordered, the contract signed for the three-engine AW101 choppers with AgustaWestland, the UK-based subsidiary of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica in February 2010, was ‘terminated with immediate effect’, several questions remain. For example, the topmost of the unanswered questions happens to be what about the middlemen, particularly Guido Haschke, who is accused giving hefty kickbacks to a number of bureaucrats and public officials in plum post in the Indian government? What about the former IAF chef SP Tyagi, who was accused of accepting bribes from the Italian and Indian middlemen, including his brothers? What will happen to the CBI investigation, which, at best, is only partially complete, with giant loopholes still gaping at the clueless Indian taxpayers, whose money was lavishly spent on satisfying the endless greed of these mercenaries? And, although the ministry of defence cites grounds of breach of the pre-contract integrity pact for the termination order, it is obvious that the Anglo-Italian company and its management are not only to be blamed. There are wheels and wheels within the government machinery, all of which have been oiled by the lucrative monetary lubricants that were obtained below the table in this massive deal, with rules tweaked a number of times to suit this company in question. Earlier last year, when Orsi Giuseppe, the CEO of Finmeccanica was arrested in Italy for his role in the chopper deal, the lid was off from a nexus of widespread corruption, with fixers and manipulators from both countries operating at various levels to seal an essentially overpriced deal, at the expense of substantial net loss to the public exchequer. In late 2013, as Indian authorities questioned Haschke in Italy on his alleged role in the deal, the Italian defence lobbyist hinted at several Indian public figures being involved in the scam, which was facilitated by notorious international fixers, the Tyagi brothers.

 The scrapping of the deal, albeit a logical step in the light of the slew of inconvenient revelations, should not prevent the investigation from running its full course and bringing the culprits to the book. The authorities, both Indian and Italian, must cooperate to deconstruct the money trail against the Rs 360 crore arranged as kickbacks for players in Italy, India and Switzerland. The CBI must also clearly establish the roles played by the engineering consultancies – IDS Tunisia, IDS India and the Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix – to expose the route through which money was channelised illegally and bribes were given and received, mostly as inflated bills and invoices. Probe must tell precisely what were the exact contributions of the middlemen Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and UK consultant Christian Michel, to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland since 2005-06. Moreover, it remains to be seen why the tainted defence company in the UK-based Westalnd was picked over and above other tenders, despite its having a bad history with the Indian government in the form of the defective Pawan Hans aircrafts in mid-1980s.
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