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Agent admits Tyagi kin pay-off: CBI

SP Tyagi

New Delhi, Jan. 10: Top CBI sources today claimed that one of the suspected middlemen in the now-scrapped Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam, Guido Haschke, has admitted to paying money to family members of the former Indian Air Force chief, S.P. Tyagi, that was required to fulfil a business contract he had with them.

Haschke was said to have made the admission during questioning by a team of officials from the CBI and the defence ministry in Milan. The team is expected to leave for India tomorrow. Haschke is being examined and questioned by the prosecution in a court in Milan.

Haschke is one of the 13 accused named in the FIR filed by the CBI in connection with its probe into the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal.

The contract was scrapped by the Centre last week over suspicion that it had violated an “integrity pact” by using agents to swing the deal. The money trail is yet to be conclusively established.

“During Haschke’s questioning by CBI officials inside an Italian court in Milan on Thursday, he told investigators that he had paid money to S.P. Tyagi’s family members and not the former air force chief. He claimed that he paid the money in accordance with a business contract he had with the family members,” CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Telegraph tonight.

Sinha, however, said it was still not clear whether Haschke had allegedly bribed Indian officials to swing the deal.

“Our team is returning tomorrow and we will get to know more details relating to his questioning. We need to first verify his claims and corroborate it before reaching any conclusion in the case,” the director said.

Sinha said Haschke claimed to have met some family members of the former air force chief several times but denied having ever met the retired air chief marshal who completed his service in 2006.

Tyagi has repeatedly denied tweaking norms to favour AW101 helicopters made by Italian major Finmeccanica’s UK subsidiary AgustaWestland. But he has said that Carlo Gerosa, another suspect, knew his cousins.

According to another CBI official, Haschke was allegedly in touch with Tyagi’s two cousins — Julie “Docsa” and Sandeep Tyagi — who were named in the CBI FIR along with Tyagi.

The CBI team had left for Italy on Wednesday along with defence ministry officials to interrogate Haschke.

This is the first time India’s investigators were allowed to examine Haschke, who is facing trial for alleged corrupt activities along with top executives of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland.

“Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel are the alleged European middlemen whose names have also figured in investigations in Italy. Haschke was allegedly in touch with the cousins of Tyagi. The three middlemen are named in the FIR as being conduits for funds channelled to companies to which Tyagi’s cousins are linkedů,” the CBI official said.

Haschke was arrested in October in Switzerland and was later taken to Italy.

“Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa (both middlemen) managed to send 5.6 million euros through Mohali-based IDS Infotech and Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix Info Solutions Private Ltd to India and kept the remaining amount of about 24.30 million euros received from AgustaWestland with themselves in the account of IDS Tunisia,” the CBI FIR in the case says.

The contract to buy VVIP “Skyfall” helicopters was signed with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland on the advice of the prime minister’s office. The helicopters were meant for the President, the Prime Minister and other dignitaries.

The judicial inquiry in the Italian court at Busto Arsizio had found evidence that Finmeccanica, the holding company of AgustaWestland, had created a slush fund of 51 million euros from which bribes were paid.

The firm has rejected the allegations and sought arbitration on the scrapping of the contract by New Delhi.