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Saturday , February 16 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Italian job beckons CBI

New Delhi, Feb. 15: The CBI will send a team to Italy within a week to probe the alleged kickbacks in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, sources said today.

“We have decided to send a team to Italy to investigate the alleged kickbacks paid by an Italian defence major to clear the deal for procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters. The team, led by an SP-rank official, will leave for Italy within a week,” a CBI official said.

Another official said the CBI had registered a defence ministry complaint for a probe, which is the first step to initiating a formal inquiry in a case.

“A complaint has been registered to ascertain allegations of corruption against Indian nationals and whether kickbacks were paid to officials here by the Italian firm,” he said.

After a complaint is registered, the CBI decides whether to file a preliminary enquiry or directly file an FIR based on documentary evidence.

“During the enquiry, we can examine people whose names have cropped up during the probe by Italian agencies to ascertain whether a prima facie case is made out against them,” the official said.

“The focus is also to investigate the money trail and the Enforcement Directorate will be taken on board to examine the money laundering part. We need to scrutinise each and every document on the deal, starting from finalising of specifications in the tender, signing of the deal, pricing of helicopters and their procurement to payments.”

A CBI team today asked defence ministry officials to hand over key documents and its internal probe report into the deal. Several files were handed over this evening itself.

“We also met senior ministry officials and tried to understand the intricacies of the procurement process in the helicopter dealů. The ministry has deputed an IAF officer to help with the probe,” a senior CBI official said.

Yesterday, a CBI team had asked defence ministry officials to provide files related to any internal enquiry conducted by them. It is alleged that kickbacks of Rs 362 crore was paid in the deal, of which Rs 140 crore went into the pockets of middlemen.

The official said that once the ministry handed over all key documents, the CBI would register a regular case or a preliminary enquiry. “We will then send a letter rogatory to Italian authorities to get certified copies of the findings based on which the chairman and the CEO of Finmeccanica was arrested.”

He said the CBI had, through informal channels, got hold of a copy of the report filed by Italian prosecutors. “But we need certified copies. We have gone through the defence ministry complaint but that is not sufficient to file an FIR.”