Monday, 28 September 2020

who can help crack copter scam mystery?

Updated: February 23, 2013 2:04 pm

India should not bank on Italy to unravel the AgustaWestland helicopter corruption. Indeed, circumstantial evidence suggests that the Italians could actually mislead Indian authorities regarding the truth. The scam erupted in full force only after the Italian government arrested the CEO of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica on charges of corruption. This raised high hopes in certain Indian circles that the Italians will do what the UPA government refuses to do. The hopes could be misplaced. The reasons are complex.

The Italian exposure that led to the arrest of Italian businessmen has resulted from the fight between Italy’s political parties on the eve of a general election. Political parties can at best represent the government. But higher than the government is the Italian Establishment. The corruption exposure may be permitted to the extent of hurting the government. Political parties would not be allowed to hurt the Establishment. The Establishment protects the system. The system that serves the economic interests of the Italian nation presently is based upon corruption. That is what three-time Italian Prime Minister Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, dismissed from office for corruption, meant when he commented on the AgustaWestland copter deal.

Mr. Berlusconi said: “Bribes are a phenomenon that exist and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations. These are not crimes. We’re talking about paying a commission to someone in that country. .. Everyone knows that as well as the tenders, agreements between governments are involved.” In other words the system exists and must be allowed to continue. One suspects that the UPA government heartily agrees with the views of Mr. Berlusconi. That is why it refused for one whole year to investigate the copter deal. That is why it is only going through the motions now to placate public opinion. The deal has not been canceled. It may never be.

Instead the effort will be on to defuse the crisis through a phony investigation that nails small-time players and protects the main culprits. That will suit both the Italian and Indian political establishments. The Italians have already created a red herring to draw attention away from the truth. With considerable fanfare Italian documents have been released nailing family relatives of Air Chief Marshal Tyagi. The Tyagi family has denied all charges relating to the copter deal although it has acknowledged business links with Italian firms in the power sector. If at all, the Tyagi clan might be a bit player in the copter deal. Consider some facts.

The Italian court has refused to share information from documents in its possession with Indian authorities. The Italians say that at this point of time there is need to maintain secrecy. How is secrecy compromised by sharing information with investigators probing the same deal with ostensibly the same motives? Sharing information with Indian investigators is not the same as sharing information with the public. Are not both India and Italy claiming to unravel the truth? Cooperation between the probe teams of both governments should help not harm the investigation. Or are they in fact cooperating to cover up the truth? Other conduct in the Italian probe is even more curious.

The Italian authorities have highlighted their allegations against Air Chief Marshal Tyagi and his cousins. The allegations are based mostly on the testimony of Italian middleman Guido Haschke who is presently in a Swiss jail for alleged corruption in the deal. Haschke is repeatedly stressing his purported meetings with Air Chief Marshal Tyagi and the latter’s role in facilitating the deal which the former Air chief has denied. The Italian authorities and the Indian media went to town with these allegations. Might it not suit the Italian as well as the Indian governments to draw a red herring away from the main truth? Might not Haschke cooperate with his captors in order to commute or at least lighten his sentence? These doubts occur because his loud allegations against the Air Chief Marshal are at marked variance with his inexplicable silence over his earlier revelation that was made involuntarily while he was being probed by Italian sleuths before his arrest.

Earlier Haschke was recorded advising colluders in India that by naming a particular individual all hurdles to getting the deal across Indian officials would automatically vanish. In the hours of taped conversation he repeatedly mentioned the name. Italian authorities while releasing the transcript of the taped conversation carefully withheld the name by claiming that it was undecipherable! A name repeatedly uttered by an Italian could not be deciphered by other Italians! Well, what stops Haschke and the Italian sleuths shouting themselves hoarse over charges against the Tyagi family from sharing that name with the public now? Why is the voluble Guido Haschke silent about that name now?

The Italian probe gets even more curious. The BJP spokesperson Mr. Prakash Javedekar has quoted from the Italian charge sheet on the copter deal to state: “In two places the Italian charge sheet talks about payment of 28 million Euros to ‘The Family’. The nation wants to know who ‘The Family’ is.” Could there be any connection between Haschke’s undisclosed individual and the unnamed ‘Family’ in the charge sheet? The identity of the ‘Family’ and the undisclosed individual whose reference it was claimed would magically open all official doors in India holds the key to the truth behind the copter scam.

What could be the identity of this ‘Family’? Obviously by simply describing it as ‘The Family’ the Italian authorities indicate that it is very powerful. I pondered to discover the identity of this family. Could it be the Tyagi family? No, I concluded, because all the members of the Tyagi family have already been named individually by Italian authorities. I then thought, could it be a very powerful political family such as belonging to a Prime Minister? But no, I thought, Mr. Manmohan Singh has one daughter teaching in Delhi and another married in the US . It is hardly a joint family that could qualify description as ‘The Family’.

It then occurred to me that it could perhaps be a very powerful business family. The most powerful business family is the Ambani clan. But the brothers Mukesh and Anil although on good terms went their own ways and now function quite separately in business. It cannot be the Ambani family. So which family could it be? I have racked my brains but I just cannot think of a family that could qualify for that description. Can any reader help?

By Rajinder Puri

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