Milan, Oct 18 IBNS | 2 years ago

Swiss authorities have arrested an alleged middleman in connection with the AugustaWestland chopper deal, media reports said on Friday.

Swiss national Guido Ralph Haschke was arrested on charges of bribery.

"A Swiss national accused of bribery in an Italian helicopter deal with India was arrested Thursday," Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"Italy had requested the extradition of Guido Ralph Haschke following allegations he was involved in a kickback scandal related to an Indian government helicopter purchase from AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence company Finmeccanica, in 2010. A court in Switzerland ruled that Haschke can be extradited to Italy and ordered him into custody," it reported.

An Italian inquiry had found that in 2003, a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army allegedly demanded USD 5 million dollars to influence a contract for 197 light helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland.

AgustaWestland which had earlier been accused of bribery charges in the Rs. 4000-crore VVIP chopper deal with Indian defence department, had denied all charges of paying kickbacks.

Besides bribing Indian officials for a 12-helicopter deal, Finmeccanica discussed kickbacks for a larger deal with a serving Brigadier in the Indian Army, an inquiry by Italian prosecutors had said.

The report by the investigators had said that an alleged middleman for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland was seen touching the feet of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi.

The scandal involved kickbacks worth upto Rs 360 crores for the deal that was worth about Rs 4,000 crores and allegedly took place during the tenure of Tyagi who headed the air force from 2004 to 2007.

Tyagi had denied the allegations and had said that he met one of the alleged AgustaWestland middlemen just once contrary to the charges of "six or seven" meetings.

The middleman Ralph Haschke "confessed" that he met Tyagi six or seven times and once greeted him by touching his feet as a sign of respect, the Italian prosecutors had said.

Tyagi's family members were also linked to the scam but his brother vehemently denied it.

Italian police earlier arrested Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal.

(Posted on 18-10-2013)