Just a week before the VVIP choppers scandal broke in February last year, the alleged kingpin of the shady deal Guido Ralph Haschke visited India and stayed here for over 7 days. Top sources in the government said Haschke --American-Italian middleman of the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland helicopters deal -- landed in India on February 11 and stayed till Feb 19, 2012.
“He stayed in a five star hotel in the national capital. Details of Haschke meeting could be the key to ascertaining whether he was alerted and planned a visit to wipe out India connection and trails leading to the alleged kickback and beneficiaries in the deal. What happened in those 7-8 days will be crucial for the investigation in India. Agencies probing the allegation of bribe in the deal are scanning his activities during the visit,” sources said.
On Feb 27, 2012 the kickbacks scandal was exposed in Italian newspaper “Corriera Della Sera” and subsequently the news was circulated to Indian media. Sources said various news reports suggest that Italian investigators were probing the alleged kickbacks since 2011 and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spangnolini was also interrogated in November 2011.
The investigators’ report also indicated that Haschke was informed by AgustaWestland officials the same year about the Italian investigation after which Haschke had sanitised his office and had shifted his computers containing data and crucial documents related to alleged kickbacks to his mother’s place.
“His visit appears to be suspicious given the fact that Italian investigators were already on the trail and Haschke knew about it. They (Indian agencies) are examining his movement for further probe. Individuals Haschke met during his stay could be questioned after getting a report,” sources added.
After the expose in the morning of Feb 27, 2012, Italian investigators recorded an alleged conversation around 5 pm the same day between Haschke and Gerosa in which both discussed media reports, Indian links and decided to visit Rome on March 5, to meet two officials of AgustaWestland who are suspected to have played a major role in the alleged scam.
Another transcript of the intercepted conversation between Haschke and his partner Carlo Gerosa reveals some interesting patterns related to his activities in India. In the alleged conversation recorded on Jan 13, 2012 -- less than a month before his India visit on Feb 11, 2012 -- Haschke told Gerosa that his wife is very vague and now it’s time he will have to explain her what he earns from India.