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#AgustaWestland: why ED has called ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi for questioning

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 30 April 2016, 17:21 IST

The Enforcement Directorate has summoned former Air Force chief SP Tyagi and his cousins Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep Tyagi for questioning about the alleged payment of kickbacks to them by AgustaWestland.

They are unlikely to be arrested though, a source in the agency said. "Early arrest, as we have seen in some cases in the past, does not help the cause of investigations," the source explained. The agency hasn't disclosed when the Tyagis have been asked to appear, presumably to minimise the media focus.

Also read - Explained: how #AgustaWestland deal turned into a scam

The ED, based on initial investigations, believes SP Tyagi was instrumental in altering the tender specifications that swung the deal for VVIP helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland. The former IAF chief was allegedly working at the behest of his cousins, who in turn had taken kickbacks from Carlo Gerosa and Guido Ralph Haschke, middlemen for the Italian helicopter builder.

According to the ED, the Tyagis had long been associated with Haschke and Gerosa. The brothers had signed a consultancy contract with the middlemen through Gordian Sari, a firm based in Tunisia and controlled by Gerosa. The three brothers received 1,26,000 euros in May 2004 and another 2,00,000 in February 2005 as "consultancy fees".

It will take 3-4 months to unearth the entire #AgustaWestland money trail, says ED official

The ED's prosecution complaint (chargesheet), under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, claims the Tyagis, including the former IAF chief, also received some money in cash from Haschke and Gerosa. The source said the ED has "some details of this money trail". "That is why we have arrested individuals like Gautam Khaitan," the official said.

Gautam Khaitan, a lawyer who is suspected to have been a middleman in the deal, was arrested on 23 September 2014, a day after the agency searched his office and residence. He allegedly helped set up bogus firms in Mauritius and Tunisia to launder the kickbacks.

"Investigations revealed that several companies - IDS Tunisia; Aeromatrix Info Solutions; Interstellar Technologies, Mauritius; Infotech Design Pvt Ltd, Mauritius; ML Administrator Ltd, Mauritius; and Media Exim Pvt Ltd - were formed in various countries to channel the money against fabricated invoices, under the guise of some work being undertaken," the official said.

Shady dealings

The money was laundered through a complex multi-country network, with Khaitan playing a crucial part in finally bringing it to India, as "FDI" in the firm Aeromatrix Solutions from Infotech Design System, Mauritius.

The ICICI Bank has confirmed the receipt of FDI - 99,963 euros on 20 July 2009, another 99,920 euros on 14 October, 2,49,883 euros on 7 November, and 2,19,890 euros on 21 December. The "FDI" came in as equity from JP Morgan AG, Frankfurt. The same amount was received in Germany from MS Infotech Design System, Mauritius, which shared the address with ML Administrators, establishing the links between the two firms.

AgustaWestland had an agreement with IDS Infotech India to provide IT enabled services for which it paid 19 euros per man-hour. After IDS Tunisia was set up, however, the same work was invoiced at 34 euros per man-hour for 15,000 hours. Clearly, the Tunisian firm was just an intermediary to over invoice bills.

#AgustaWestland: The Tyagis got 1,26,000 euros in 2004 & 2,00,000 euros in 2005 as consultancy fees

In total, as per the ED source, the firm received 24.06 million euros from AgustaWestland. Of this, it transferred to 3.88 million euros to Aeromatrix and 1.88 million to IDS Infotech. The remaining 18.94 million was laundered through payments for fictitious invoices to various companies, the details of which are still under investigation. "It will take three-four months to unearth the entire trail," the official told Catch. "The Agusta investigations will take time."

Among the documents seized from Khaitan was a list of the beneficiaries of AgustaWestland's monthly payment of 5,10,000 euros to IDS Tunisia. It lists the amount received against the initials of the beneficiary. One entry for '270' is listed against 'brothers', which Khaitan has told the investigators "must be the Tyagi brothers".

The ED last year attached properties worth Rs 3.7 crore owned by Khaitan, his wife Ritu, and Aeromatrix. It also provisionally attached properties worth Rs 6.6 crore belonging to the Tyagi brothers. The agency has now secured attachment orders for Rs 1.1 crore worth of properties belonging to Media Exim, a firm run by Christian Michel James, another alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland deal.

The ED, meanwhile, is awaiting responses to Letters Rogatory from Italy, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Israel. It has already issued red corner notices against Hasckhe, Gerosa and Christian Michel; in the latter's case, the agency has also requested Britain to extradite him.

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First published: 30 April 2016, 17:21 IST
 
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