It’s a real company, with real directors and an address in Chandigarh – but a “non-existent” deal that IDS Infotech allegedly struck with chopper manufacturer AgustaWestland in March 2007 has returned to haunt the 24-year-old IT services company.
The fake contract was used by AgustaWestland to generate fraudulent invoices in the name of IDS Infotech, to route back Rs. 400 crore worth bribes for key middlemen Guido Ralph Hasckhe and Carlo Gerosa, and for the family of former air chief SP Tyagi, Italian investigators have told a court in a probe report.
The contract was for IT services that IDS Infotech never delivered to AgustaWestland.
But the money trail didn’t end with IDS Infotech. Indian investigation sources have told HT that IDS Infotech hived off a subsidiary, Aeromatrix in 2009, which has Hasckhe and Gerosa as directors, along with Praveen Bakshi – also an executive vice president in IDS Infotech – and Arihant Jain.
Another company – IDS Mauritius – owns 82.66% shares in Aeromatrix, while the directors own the remaining 17.33 % shares, the company’s annual returns show.
Indian investigators now suspect that AgustaWestland transferred the bribe money to IDS India through invoices for the fake contracts, which in turn routed the money via IDS Mauritius to Aeromatrix – and so to Hasckhe and eventually the Tyagis.
Pratap Aggarwal, managing director of IDS Infotech – set up in 1989 -- could not be reached on his phone, and Satish Bagrodia, another director on the company’s board, refused to comment.
Bakshi, the CEO of Aeromatrix has denied any link to the chopper deal. But the man Hasckhe and Gerosa appear to have pinned hopes on is Delhi-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan, who was a director on the Aeromatrix board till October 2012, quitting with Jain once the probe against AgustaWestland picked up.
Speaking to each other on March 25, 2012 while returning from Milan airport, where they had gone to drop off Julie Tyagi, the former air chief’s cousin, Hasckhe and Gerosa discussed who could help them best – and concluded that Khaitan was a safer bet.
"Gautam (Khaitan) has a lot of good experience, an experience very strong. While Praveen (Bakshi) is unlikely to (help)," Gerosa told Hasckhe, according to a conversation transcribed by Italian prosecutors in their report.
(With inputs from Chandigarh)