The dirtiest truths in the Agusta Westland scandal

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh admitted in the Lok Sabha that the British government has been approached for the extradition of Christian Michel.

Michel is the middleman named by Italian investigators as a key intermediary in swinging the controversial deal for AgustaWestland choppers and is believed to be in the United Kingdom.

Extradition proceedings have begun against Mallya too! We can expect the scofflaw wilful defaulter to visit India in the next millennium. And the Government of India hasn’t even begun that fig-leaf measure against Lalit Modi!

Most of India’s paid and managed media, crowing about having exposed the deal, haven’t revealed even 40% of the scandal.

Worse, the paid media is beating around the bush by citing itsy-bitsy details like Tunisia and/or Dubai being the origin of the money that landed in the bank accounts of SP Tyagi’s relatives in Chandigarh. And they “cleverly” quote Tyagi’s denial of any wrongdoing as the sign of being “unbiased reporting”!

The pointed question being dodged by the Congress leadership:

When AK Antony admitted to the existence of bribery, when an Italian court has jailed top executives of Agusta Westland, isn’t it obvious that someone in the UPA took the commission?

The ruling NDA too is skating on thin ice on one vital issue:

The names of the decision makers of the steal-deal are all on the files as the deal was inked. What stops the regime from arresting all those who contributed to the signing of the contract with Westland? The law can from then on “take its own course”!

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Thanks to the Italian courts, the perfidious and treacherous tale of Augusta Westland[1] 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.

Sonia Gandhi is a suspected agent of Pakistan’s ISI and Soviets’ ex-spying agency – KGB.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The Italian courts have convicted bribe-givers who have named the top leadership of the Congress and several bureaucrats.
  3. 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. [2]

The second is the British angle. [3]

The bad part is the dubious track record of Westland.[4]

[1]

Way back on February 15 2013, these columns had exposed Augusta 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 section within The Vatican – the world’s smallest state located within Rome – the capital of Italy – has its own grouse against Augusta Westland.

[2]

  1. A day ago, the Indian Express said in its report that Tyagi could be the scandal’s lynch-pin.
  2. 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.

[3]

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:

  1. If there is one name that Conservative Party hardliner and British businessman Michael Heseltine would love to hate – it is Westland!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Orsi has claimed that the bribery allegations had been “concocted by adversaries within Finmeccanica”.
  7. In 2013, debts had dogged Agusta’s parent firm Finmeccanica.
  8. Orsi had resigned as chief executive in February 2013 following his arrest, saying he wanted to “help to calm the atmosphere”.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

[4]

Agusta Westland has the poorest track record in the world amongst helicopter makers since 1993:

The world at large seems to be interested. Evidence:

India 2248
United States 648
United Kingdom 128
United Arab Emirates 64
Singapore 46
Australia 45
Canada 41
France 32
Oman 25
Germany 20
Saudi Arabia 12
Pakistan 11
South Africa 10
Qatar 10
Turkey 9
Switzerland 8
Netherlands 8
Malaysia 7
Thailand 7
Spain 6
Kuwait 5
Norway 5
Israel 4
Philippines 4
Taiwan 4
Russia 4
Poland 4
European Union 3
Ireland 3
Botswana 3
Japan 3
New Zealand 2
Greece 2
Indonesia 2
Sweden 2
Nigeria 2
Denmark 2
Croatia 1
South Korea 1
Maldives 1
Brazil 1
Seychelles 1
Macau SAR China 1
Macedonia 1
Nepal 1
Bahrain 1
Cyprus 1
Martinique 1
Belgium 1
Mauritius 1
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Venezuela 1
Timor-Leste 1
Ghana 1
Italy 1
Finland 1
Sri Lanka 1

 

Author: haritsv

42 years' unblemished record of being an investigative journalist. Print quality journalist in 3 languages - English, Tamil, Hindi. Widely travelled, worldwide. Cantankerous and completely honest.

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