NEW DELHI:While Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday said he will reveal ‘how and when necessary clauses or provisions were relaxed to suit AgustaWestland’ in Parliament, investigators, joining the dots in the VVIP chopper scam, told Express that key middlemen in the Rs 3,600 crore deal were in New Delhi when the operational requirements were being deliberated by NSA, SPG, Indian Air Force and Ministry of Defence officials.
In March 2005, the altitude ceiling requirements for the copters was cut to 4,500 metres from 6,000 metres. In 2002 itself, AgustaWestland was disqualified as it was not capable of flying at 6,000 metres. The discussion within the government, which continued till December 2005, also revised the procurement from eight to 12 choppers.
Interestingly, sources confirmed that two key middlemen — Christian Michel and Guido Haschke — were in Delhi when the government revised the operational requirements and number of choppers. A source also revealed that Michel made 11 trips to Delhi in 2005 to meet his Indian collaborators and swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland. The source also confirmed that during the same period, Haschke made five trips to Delhi. “It is apparent that Michel and Haschke held meetings with alleged Indian middlemen and perhaps key defence officials as well. We will confront former Air chief S P Tyagi and his cousins on whether they met both the foreign arms dealers during their trips to India. Evidence also shows Michel perhaps got involved in the deal way back in 2002. Evidence shows he first landed in India on March 3, 2002, when the first global tender was issued to 11 vendors, including AgustaWestland,” the source said. But, that was just the beginning. As soon as a single vendor situation arose in November 2003, Michel made another trip to India and is learnt to have spent at least a week in Delhi. After the then NDA government decided to revise the operational requirements for the choppers in November 2003, Michel made another trip. According to sources he left for Dubai on December 5, 2003, by Emirates Flight 513.
In March 2005, altitude ceiling requirement for Agusta choppers was reduced to 4,500 metres from earlier 6,000 metres
However, back in 2002 itself, AgustaWestland was disqualified as it was not capable of flying at 6,000 metres; key middlemen Christian Michel and Guido Haschke were in Delhi when the government revised the operational requirements
Can Indian middlemen, under the scanner in the controversial deal, deny the link? Absolutely not, sources said, adding that they have unearthed proof which ties all of them together. The sources told Express that in his travel details, Swiss middleman Guido Haschke had provided reference and number of Gautam Khaitan, an Indian accused in the scam, making the link obvious.
According to sources, after the Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued by the Indian government to three vendors, including AgustaWestland, Haschke made a secret trip on December 28, 2006. Sources probing Haschke’s 10-day-long stay said his meetings in Delhi with the Tyagis and Khaitan are under the scanner. He left for Zurich on January 6, 2007. It is learnt that as soon as the government in November-December 2007, initiated the process for field evaluation of Sikorsky and AgustaWestland helicopters, Khaitan had at least two meetings with Michel in Dubai. According to sources, Khaitan left for Dubai on November 27 and made another trip on December 11, 2007. A month later, the field evaluation trial of AgustaWestland was carried out in the UK and trials of Sikorsky were carried out in the US.