Thanks to the Italian courts, the perfidious and treacherous tale of Augusta Westland choppergate scandal worth €530 million [INR 39.7 billon or Rs. 3970 crores] seems to have guillotined the political career of the Indian National Congress party’s Italian-born President, Edvige Antonia Albina Maino a.k.a. Sonia Gandhi.
Though the supply contract of 12 AW101 helicopters was annulled, Italian courts found some of the company Agusta Westland’s main decision makers guilty of bribery charges. The pay-out aggregates to € 24.3 million [Rs.187 crores].
The bribe-givers have been jailed in Italy.
By attaching the bank guarantee provided by Agusta Westland, India has so far recovered roughly Rs.1818 crores or approximately 50% of the money paid to Agusta Westland as per the prevalent exchange rates in 2014.
On its part, the Italian firm had supplied 3 choppers valued by Agusta Westland at Rs.900 crores. India has retained them.
Simply put, the people of India have lost around Rs.1000 crores to the Italians.
The balance money may never come back to India. So, the Congress party’s averment that the Indian exchequer did not suffer any loss at all is a blatant piece of pure untruth.
The mutually assured destructive blame game between the treasury and opposition benches is on.
The main maim-plank of the ruling National Democratic Alliance led by the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party against the United Progressive Alliance [UPA] regimes I & II between 2004 and 2014 are:
- It was the UPA that inked the contract to buy 12 VVIP choppers in 2010 from a factory located in Italy, a nation in which Sonia Gandhi was born.Her name figures multiple times in Italy’s Milan Appellate Court judgement along withother mainstays of the Congress, official top brass decision makers in the UPA regimes including the Indian Air Force.
- The Italian courts have convicted bribe-givers who have named the top leadership of the Congress and several bureaucrats.
- The Congress had stymied the Central Bureau of Investigation probe by ordered its own Union Defence Minister AK Antony. He had ordered the probe in 2013 admitting there could have been some corruption while speaking in parliament. Its strongest indications came from the cancellation of the contract and the confiscation of the bank guarantee provided by the supplier Agusta Westland’s parent firm Finmeccanica. The fact that during the last 2 years of UPAII – the investigation did not move an inch forward indicates some wrongdoing on the part of the Congress.
The Congress has denied the charges citing the following:
- The names mentioned in the 225-page judgement isn’t substantive proof to convict any particular individual or group or groups.
- The BJP has been sitting on its haunches on the probe since 2014 – for almost 2 years. Worse, Agusta Westland was allowed to re-enter India through a subsidiary linked to the Tata Group and participate in the Make In India campaign.
- Air Chief Marshal [now retired] SP Tyagi – is closer to the BJP and the RSS than the Congress. He had been part of a think tank associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS]. The RSS is an ultra-right-wing self-administered political pressure group that spawned the BJP.
There are some flies in these two bowls of soup.
The first is former air marshal Tyagi. 
The second is the British angle. 
The bad part is the dubious track record of Westland.
India’s flying chopper-taxi-operator Pawan Hans acquired its ‘worsted and wasted name’ through Westland nicknamed the kisses of death in the 80’s. VH-71 Kestrel, a variant of AW101 was developed to serve in the US presidential transport fleet. However, the deal was cancelled.
The 90’s were the Westland flying coffins’ nadir, according to another media report!
Italians have their own reasons to hate its swirling rotors.
- A day ago, the Indian Express said in its report that Tyagi could be the scandal’s lynch-pin.
- Ten months ago, the upmarket news magazine India Today had cited an Italian lower court’s judgement exonerating Tyagi and virtually everyone else in the scandal.
None talks of the unflattering British Angle to Westland. Britain’s trade with India was worth £11.5 billion ($17.8 billion, 13.4 billion euros) in 2010 – when the deal to buy 12 Agusta Westland choppers was signed in the presence of British PM David Cameron. The 3 choppers delivered to India were made in UK, says a 2013 report. It is dirty all the way. Salient features:
- If there is one name that Conservative Party hardliner and British businessman Michael Heseltine would love to hate – it is Westland!
- Till January 1 2016, the United Kingdom government owned 49% shares in Finmeccanica – the actual name of the firm that makes and markets Agusta Westland choppers. Since then, it has become a single integrated industrial entity that have absorbed the activities of Agusta Westland, Alenia Aermacchi, Selex ES, OTO Melara and WASS. It has 7 divisions comprising helicopters, aircraft, aero-structures, airborne & space Systems, land & naval defence electronics, defence systems and security & information systems. It also is involved in joint ventures with DRS Technologies, Telespazio, Thales Alenia Space, MBDA and ATR.
- The company is listed at the Italian Stock Exchange and has been admitted to the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) World and Europe 2015.The top convicted person in the scandal is Italian businessman Giuseppe Orsi.Bruno Spagnolini, former head of AgustaWestland, was sentenced to four years in jail.
- On 9 October 2014, Orsi was sentenced to two years in prison (sentence has been suspended) for false invoicing. Orsi had then been granted bail on the basis of an appeal.
- According to a report in the Independent in 2014, Naples prosecutor Francesco Greco told the court that €4 million [INR 300 crores] was delivered to the offices of Finmeccanica in a gym bag in cash.Finmeccanica is linked to the infamous Panama shell companies’ allegations.
- Orsi has claimed that the bribery allegations had been “concocted by adversaries within Finmeccanica”.
- In 2013, debts had dogged Agusta’s parent firm Finmeccanica.
- Orsi had resigned as chief executive in February 2013 following his arrest, saying he wanted to “help to calm the atmosphere”.
- The court also ordered the two executives to pay 7.5 million euros ($8.5 million), a sum related to the amounts deemed to have been allegedly paid in bribes.
- According to a report published by international news agency Reuters, an Italian appeals court sentenced former Finmeccanica chief executive Giuseppe Orsi to 54 months in prison on charges of corruption and falsifying invoices.
Agusta Westland has the poorest track record in the world amongst helicopter makers since 1993:
- 21 January 1993 – Italian development Merlin PP2 – a variant of AW101 – crashed near Italy’s Novara-Cameri airfield following breakdown of the rotor brake during flight resulting in 4 deaths.
- 7 April 1995 – British development Merlin PP4 (ZF644) crashed while in-flight from Yeovil, England. All four crew members escaped the helicopter during its descent before it hit the ground.
- 27 October 2000 – Royal Navy Merlin (ZH844) ditched near the Isle of Skye, Scotland after a hydraulic fire caused by the rotor brake being partially engaged.
- 30 March 2004 – Royal Navy Merlin (ZH859) crashed on take-off from RNAS Culdrose due to tail rotor hub cracking.
- 15 November 2007 – During embarkation for a medical evacuation on São Jorge Island, Azores, a Portuguese Air Force Merlin caused injuries to five people when it unexpectedly climbed by one metre before the pilot recovered control. A Portuguese Air Force spokesperson later stated that this kind of incident is unheard of.
- 14 October 2009 – A British Royal Navy EH101 Merlin landed short of the designated landing pad on the Canadian Forces HMCS Montreal. The cause was determined to be pilot error. Substantial damage to helicopter but no injuries.
- 11 October 2014 – A Royal Danish Air Force AW101 suffered extensive damage after rolling over after experiencing pilot-induced oscillation following a landing in Afghanistan.
- Westland was almost bankrupt in the 80’s when the then PM Margaret Thatcher resuscitated it through a deal co-signed by India’s wet-behind-the-ears-politician Rajiv Gandhi – then India Inc. CEO. Within a month of the signing of the agreement, the British regime ensured that the Khalistan flag fluttering on a 3 storeyed building in central London’s fashionable Bayswater district was brought down.
In the 80’s, Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan, the self-styled President in exile of the Republic of Khalistan operated from his Bayswater Flat – in central London – that had been owned by a shady set of Sikh siblings called Khera Brothers.
That they were not even orthodox by the Sikh standards is a moot point because one of them used to smoke with his untrimmed beard and parka on.
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi agreed to get Westland choppers in late 1985 [termed flying coffins then and now by the widows of those former IAF pilots who lost their lives operating them for VVIPs] from Britain, courtesy, Margaret Thatcher’s machinations.
In early 1986, the Khalistan flag that flew atop the building in Bayswater disappeared.
Several years later, Dr. Chauhan himself came back to India and passed away in Chandigarh.
India lost over Rs.1000 crores in the 80’s Westland chopper deal.
The world at large seems to be interested. Evidence:
|United Arab Emirates||64|
|Macau SAR China||1|
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