Middlemen, girlfriends, family connections and of course hard cash - AgustaWestland representatives stopped at nothing to reach former air chief SP Tyagi and swing the chopper deal in the company’s favour, documents filed by Italian prosecutors say.
The investigation report quotes a key middleman asserting that he met Tyagi “6/7 times”, which includes meetings at the offices of the former air chief’s cousins and at the Bangalore airshow when Tyagi was still in office.
This contradicts Tyagi’s claim that he met a middleman just once — and that too after he retired. The former air chief, who has also denied receiving bribe to push the Rs. 3,760-crore VVIP chopper deal, did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
His cousins — Julie, Dosca and Sandeep — have been identified by the Italian prosecutors as the key go-betweens who helped Finmeccanica win the contract to supply 12 helicopters to the Indian Air Force. AgustaWestland is a unit of defence group Finmeccanica.
A sum of around Rs. 70 lakh was paid in bribe to the “Tyagi family”, the prosecutors have said.
The remaining money was transferred through a service contract facilitated by a company identified as IDS India.
Conversations between middlemen — transcribed in the prosecution’s documents submitted to the court — indicate that their girlfriends were involved as they tried to liaise with the Tyagi cousins, especially Julie, who was given the money.
“The money was put in the hands of Julie in cash during trips to India,” a middleman identified by the prosecutors only as ADR is quoted as saying. “The agreement was with the Tyagi family but the money was handed over only to Julie.”
The “relationship” between the Tyagis and the go-betweens used by AgustaWestland started in 2001, when Carlo Gerosa — a middleman — met Julie at a wedding in Lugano, Italy. It was in 2000-01 that IAF talked about need for VVIP choppers.
The documents suggest that when AgustaWestland felt that the contours of the tender for the VVIP choppers would rule them out as their helicopters couldn’t fly at the height (18,000 ft) initially stipulated by the IAF, the company turned to Gerosa and his boss, Ralph Haschkhe, who knew the Tyagi cousins.
Between 2005 and 2007, the middlemen met SP Tyagi at least six times: twice at the offices of his cousins, and at least once at the Bangalore airshow which is held every two years. “He was still in uniform and came to visit the Finmeccanica booth,” ADR is quoted as saying.