Bindiya Thomas
01:20 PM, August 2, 2013
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Former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi (above) and the head of AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnolini face trial in an Italian court for allegedly bribing Indian officials to win the VVIP helicopter deal.

The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not arresting former IAF chief SP Tyagi and his cousins may help the defense argument in the trial against previous Finmeccanica executives Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini in an Italian court.

The CBI has been investigating the alleged payment of bribe in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter purchase case. However, the fact that the Indian agency has not made any arrests so far despite claims of it having proof of the money trail leading up to cousins of the former air chief SP Tyagi may be used by lawyers of Orsi and Spagnolini to defend their clients.

The CBI also recently questioned managers at the Indian branches of Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech, which prosecutors believe acted as intermediaries by issuing false engineering contracts and routing bribes through the Mauritius Islands and Tunisia, according to various reports.

Members of Tyagi’s family, cousins Julie and Docsa Tyagi, were also questioned about their alleged contacts with European middlemen Gerosa and Haschkhe but they have been taken in for further questioning to str trace the money trial.

With the next hearing in the Finmeccanica bribery trial set for next month, the defense is calling on Indian Defense Minister AK Antony, businessman Ratan Tata and former British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon to testify. The move behind the summoning appears to bring the spotlight on India’s defence procurement process in which defence deals are marked by delays and bribery.

Although India has made it clear that Antony will not testify in any foreign court, the Defense Minister was being called to bear witness on his country’s tendering process, while Hoon and Tata are to be admitted as witnesses to provide evidence on the Indian defence industry.

Geoff Hoon is currently Managing Director, International Business at AgustaWestland.

Earlier this year, AgustaWestland and Tata Sons signed an agreement to begin joint production of AW119Ke light helicopter in India. The joint venture firm called Indian Rotorcraft will start with the production of 8-seater AW119Ke light helicopters by mid-2013.

At the time, Ratan Tata, said, a successful partnership with AgustaWestland will go a long way in fostering the growth of the Indian aerospace sector. The production facility will be capable off churning out 30 helicopters per year. The facility will be further developed for producing and catering to other helicopter types like the 16-ton AW101

India has also told the Italian court that its orders are not binding and that it will have the right to exercise all legal options available to it.

Earlier in February, Italian police arrested former Finmeccanica Chairman Giuseppe Orsi and the head of AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnolini as part of a bribery investigation in the 2010 VVIP helicopter sale to India. "These [arrests] decapitate the heads of two companies that are important for the Italian economy," Mr. Orsi's lawyer, Ennio Amodio, said in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, adding that his client neither gave nor received money related to the helicopter sale.

Prosecutors are looking to determine if AgustaWestland bribed Indian officials to secure the $751 million contract to sell 12 helicopters to the Indian government.

So far, the trail has revealed that middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa gave AgustaWestland several top-secret documents from the Indian MoD that were seized from the company’s computers hard disk.

The documents seized contained details of bids made by competitors of AgustaWestland and gave information about how ceiling specifications of the helicopters purchased by India were changed from 6,000 metres to 5,000 metres, the Public Prosecutor told the court.

These details were contained in some 70 documents extracted from the hard disk of AgustaWestland helicopters, Prosecutor Eugenio Fosco said.

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