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HindustanTimes Sat,12 Jul 2014

Chopper deal: brazen arms dealers feared no law

Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 15, 2013
First Published: 00:20 IST(15/2/2013) | Last Updated: 11:13 IST(15/2/2013)

When arms dealers Carlo Gerosa and Ralph Haschkhe spoke to each other on November 19, 2012, they knew that Italian investigators were pursuing them. But the key middlemen, who helped Italian firm Finmeccanica bribe Indian officials to win a Rs. 3,760 crore chopper deal, were still joking brashly - confident that they could tackle any judge they had to face.

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In their conversation, Gerosa playacted the role of a judge and asked Haschkhe what he had done with the "10 to 15 million euros" earned as commission on the deal.

Pat came Haschkhe's response. "I spent it on ballerinas and champagne."

Interceptions of conversations involving senior officials of AgustaWestland - the British subsidiary of Finmeccanica - and middlemen, recorded and transcribed by prosecutors in documents filed before an Italian court, paint a picture of men living the high life with few worries about getting caught.

Giorgio Zappa, the former CEO of Finmeccanica, told investigators about an incident in India, where Guiseppe Orsi -the arrested Finmeccanica chief - and Hashkhe were having dinner in the same restaurant as the representatives of American rival Sikorsky, which was also in the race for VVIP choppers.

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The Finmeccanica team seemed so confident if winning the deal that Haskhe got up, went over to the Americans and handed them a note, which brashly asserted: "(You) do not always win."

Hashkhe's move - which could have been straight out of a Hollywood thriller - upset the Americans, Zappa told investigators, but Hashkhe continued to taunt them.

And when Hashkhe expressed concerns over getting caught, Gerosa cited the example of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "Look at the legal process against Berlusconi," Gerosa said.

"(By the time they catch us), we may already be dead."


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