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Agusta probe trip

New Delhi, Jan. 7: A CBI team will leave for Italy tomorrow along with defence ministry officials to probe alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, scrapped by the Centre last week.

The officials plan to interrogate Guido Haschke, a key middleman who was allegedly in touch with cousins of former air force chief S.P. Tyagi, over the deal.

“Our probe into the alleged kickbacks in the chopper deal is on despite the scrapping. The CBI team is flying out on Wednesday to interrogate Haschke, who had used other middlemen to bribe Indian officials to swing the deal,” said a senior CBI officer.

This is the first time Indian investigators will be allowed to examine Haschke, facing trial in Milan for alleged corruption along with top executives of Italian firm Finmeccanica and its UK subsidiary AgustaWestland.

Last week, the Centre cancelled the contract to buy 12 Agusta VVIP helicopters over suspicion the Anglo-Italian firm had violated an “integrity pact” by using agents. Three of the choppers have been delivered.

Haschke will be examined by the CBI officers once he is brought to the Milan court for a scheduled hearing on Thursday. According to agency officers, Haschke was in touch with two of Tyagi’s cousins, Julie “Docsa” and Sandeep Tyagi. The duo are among 13 named in the FIR along with Tyagi.

The three-member CBI team will comprise a senior official from the agency’s anti-corruption wing and a law officer. They will accompany the defence ministry team, which has been given access to examine Haschke at the Milan court.

“Guido Haschke, Carlo Geraso and Christian Michel are middlemen whose names have figured in the investigations in Italy. Guido Haschke was in touch with Tyagi’s cousins. The three middlemen are named in the FIR as being conduits for funds channelled to companies linked to Tyagi’s cousins,” the CBI officer said.

Tyagi has denied allegations of payment of kickbacks.

The CBI officer said Haschke’s examination was crucial as he might reveal some names. “Arrests will follow if he does so. We plan to stay there for at least a week to try and get as many details as we can on the deal,” the official added.