Graft in chopper deal proven: Italian court

NEW DELHI: An Italian court said there was “reasonable belief that corruption took place” in the 2010 VVIP helicopter deal and that former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi was involved.

The court said it was “validly proven” that a part of $10-15 million in illicit funds made their way to Indian officials. The 225-page judgement by the Milan Court of Appeals, accessed by ET, has a separate 17-page chapter on Tyagi that explained the grounds on which it came to the conclusion on the corruption of the “Indian public officer”.

“The destination — at least partial — of the illicit funding to the payment of the price of corruption of Marshal Shashi Tyagi for his intervention in favour of AgustaWestland for the VVIP helicopters competition is validly proven,” the court observed. The text was translated from the original Italian.

Tyagi did not respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by ET. “We should wait to read the full translated document before reacting,” he said. The former air chief has always maintained his innocence in the case.

Tyagi did not depose before the Italian court and is currently facing investigation at home by both the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.

On April 8, the Milan Court of Appeals — equivalent to an Indian high court — had ruled that the Rs 3,565-crore Agusta-Westland contract involved payoffs to Indian officials. Overturning a lower court judgement that said corruption could not be proved, the court of appeals found Giuseppe Orsi, the powerful former chief of Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini — who headed chopper division AgustaWestland — guilty of international corruption and money laundering.

Corruption took place in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, former IAF chief SP Tyagi was involved: Italian court

In its detailed order, the Italian court said payments in cash as well as through wire transfers were made to the Tyagi family — three of the former air chief ‘s cousins — and a part of them were destined for the officer himself. Tyagi was IAF chief in 2005-07, when the VVIP chopper deal was being processed by air headquarters.

Relying on tapped conversations that involved the alleged middlemen for the deal — Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa — the court of appeals ruled that there were attempts to hide the Tyagi connection and even destruction of potential evidence by the duo.

“From the analysed conversations we can get unequivocal indications about the corruption of an Indian public officer, identified as the cousin of the Tyagi brothers. In this regard, the explicit content of the dialogue is sufficient to establish the ‘reasonable belief that corruption took place’,” the court order said.

Besides relying on a Comptroller and Auditor General report that detailed the VVIP chopper deal and showed that deviations were facilitated by Indian officials in favour of AgustaWestland, the Italian court referred to conversations between Haschke and Gerosa in March 2012 in the former’s car on payments sent to Mauritius and “cash payments in favour of the Indians”.

On one key allegation that was initially raised by the prosecutors — that Tyagi helped change the flight ceiling specifications to favour Agusta — the court said there was no proof that the move was against public interest.

However, the court has ruled that “his behaviour remains illegal because he made himself available to collaborate with AgustaWestland for a financial operation and because he received large amounts in relation to his institutional role and as he also helped (Agusta) during the RFQ/RFP (tenders) formulation so that the company could participate and win”.