AgustaWestland scam: Interpol arrests Italian middleman on ED's request
The Interpol has detained Carlos Gerosa, a middleman in the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal in Italy; he was apprehended on his way from Switzerland to Italy. It was acting on a request made by the RBI Enforcement Directorate (ED) seeking Gerosa's custody for interrogation. The ED will soon move to get Gerosa extradited to India for further questioning. Here's more about it.
The deal worth Rs. 3,546 crore was initiated under the UPA government to buy 12 AW-101 choppers from the British Company AgustaWestland for transporting VVIPs. These were intended to replace an old Russian-made Mi-8s. According to The Indian Air Force, Mi-8s were plagued by issues, including lack of night-flying capabilities and low service ceiling (the altitude at which a helicopter can fly).
The demand for new choppers arose in 1999 and the Defense ministry put out the tender in 2005. While the initial tender mentioned a service ceiling requirement of 6,000 meters, the second tender published in 2006 cut it down to 4,500 metres.
In its second charge sheet filed under the case last year, ED alleged that three foreign middlemen influenced the IAF to reduce the service ceiling limit. According to them, this was done to make AgustaWestland eligible to supply the choppers to India. ED also believes that former-IAF chief SP Tyagi received money through his cousins in exchange for changing the service ceiling limit.
Corruption allegations that surfaced in 2011 indicated that Guiseppe Orsi, chief of Finmeccanica (Agusta's parent company) channelled money to Gerosa and another middleman, Guido Ralph Haschke. Gerosa and Haschke received the money through companies co-owned by them in Mauritius and Tunisia. Recorded conversations between the two helped implicate parties, including SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini.
The UPA government set up a 30-member parliamentary committee to investigate into the scam. Following Orsi's arrest, Government of India froze the deal with AgustaWestland, although it had paid 45% of the amount and bought three helicopters. As a part of the investigation, ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation have also made formal requests to multiple countries for investigating leads and evidence.
ED will soon try to get Gerosa extradited to India for further questioning. An Interpol red corner notice (akin to an international arrest warrant) has also been issued against the other two middlemen: Guido Haschke and Christian Michel James.