The Dirty Skyfall: Behind The Curtains

 

Author: Shankar Dev

 

“The modernization of the Indian armed forces is considered to be lagging behind by up to 15 years” says many Army personal and expert in defence procurements  So there is little to wonder over the kind of massive pressure on the Indian armed forces to modernize. Striving to catch up with the fast-growing Chinese military and to keep the traditional rival Pakistan at a bay, apart from fighting in Kashmir and with Maoists in various states, as expected India has to spend around Rs 1 lakh crore over the next decade to buy a large variety of weapons platforms and systems to upgrade its 13 lakh-strong armed forces and 20 lakh central and state police. This has turned India into a “Sunrise” market for global defence firms (as Rs.11000cr plan of indigenization has turned out to be #EPICFAIL).
Take it from Jeep scandal, Bofers, Tatra involving thousands of crores (provided by the working class who pay tax even for a haircut #BUDGET2013) the role of arms broker/middleman is vital and inevitable and so is the kickbacks paid for them. In addition here lines up the latest beast from Italy – The Finmeccanica & AgustaWestland’s VVIP Chopper scam(another feather in UPA’s cap!!!).
We shall see this scam with many point of view.

Background:

August 1999, NDA regime
  • The Indian Air Force planned a proposal to replace old and over-used Russia’s Mi-8 choppers used by VVIPs, including big leaders like President, Prime Minister etc.
  • So a global Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in March 2002.
  • However, to avoid a single vendor scenario, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, in November 2003 asked the IAF to amend the operational requirement (will see about this in following section) for fair play in the deal suggesting that Special Protection Group should also be made part of the decision-making process.
  • The decision was finalised when George Fernandes was acting as defence minister and Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy was IAF chief.
2005 Onward
  • Several meetings were held between March 2005 and September 2006.
  • With some changes approval for procurement of VVIP choppers were accorded during the tenure of Pranab Mukherjee as defence minister and S P Tyagi as chief of Indian Air Force
  • On September 27, 2006, RFP was issued to some six vendors. However, only three vendors responded  to the RFP. These were Sikorsky from USA; AgustaWestland from UK and Rosoboronexport from Russia.
  • Field trials carried out in January to February 2008 in which the experts(!!!) committee recommended the choppers of AgustaWestland .
  • On February 8, 2010, the MoD headed by A K Antony with Air Chief Marshal P V Naik in the IAF office signed the contract with AgustaWestland to procure 12 choppers worth Rs 3,600 crore through special purpose vehicle (SPV).
2012,Italy
  • Italian investigators probing the dealings of Finmeccanica alleged that the company was involved in a bribery scandal to secure the deal for 12 VVIP choppers with India.
  • Investigators from Italy submitted two reports, one in October 2012 and 2nd in February 2013.
Feb,2013- New Delhi

Mr.clean -A.K Antony came to know about the “dirty play” happened behind the scene, he became furious and decided to handle the case with Iron fist. Next day he referred the case to CBI. The CBI without delay started the investigation over the Indian agents who had been paid kickbacks(bribes) by Finmeccanica, in order to secure the deal. In addition a Joint Parlimentry committee was also formed.

Now the people can get back to their sleep, as the UPA have shouldered the responsibility of vaulting the criminals and to bring back the 3600Cr to India. Mr.clean feels very embarrassed to know such a thing has happened in his ministry, perhaps without his knowledge and even he was thinking about resignation.

The Dirty Face: Behind the curtains

March 2012, MOD

A.K.Antony got a mail from C. Edmonds Allen, a New York based arms broker. Mail was carrying  details about the “kickback process” happened during the purchase of 12VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland . You might have seen The Wednesday movie, Naseerdeen Shah calls the police and informs them about the various bomb planted by him but the police was not taking it seriously. So to prove his case Naseerudeen Shah also planted a Bomb in police station. He than detonates the bomb, only then police realizes the scenario. To prove his allegations Allen attached eight secret military documents. Among them were some secret papers dealing with the procurement of surveillance aircraft for the Research and Analysis Wing, and also a report on the procurement of next generation submarines for the Indian Navy and the entire acquisition plan of the Indian Air Force. MOD refers it to CBI and Enforcement Directorate.

But still the ministry was not going believe Allen. So ministry sent the documents to the Government Examiner of Questioned Documents. It is a body who is authorized to validate the documents. The examiner confirmed that the documents attached to Allen’s mail were “secret in nature and their disclosure was prejudicial to safety, security and interest of India”. Given the sensitive nature of documents defence ministry again wrote to the CBI on August 24, 2012, to investigate the leak of classified documents from the ministry. ED acted initially on alert from the defence ministry, they contacted Allen, and questioned him in New York. But the following months September, October, November had enough festivals to celebrate. So both CBI and ED were in festive mood & they decided to start investigation after Diwali. But amidst of Diwali celebrations they forgot about the case (lol). Then Italian police reminded them (CBI and ED) by arresting Finmeccanica’s Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi in Milan on February 2013, on accusations of corruption linked to the sale of AW101 helicopters to India.

helicopter deal

Some Indian Characters:

Abishek Verma

He is an Indian Arms broker currently in Tihar jail . Orsi had paid him $27 million through two Switzerland-based intermediaries, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, to grab the Rs.3,600 crore helicopter deal. For its part, AgustaWestland allegedly used software companies IDS India and IDS Tunisia as front firms to cover up payments to officials in India.

S P Tiyagi – India’s former Air chief marshal

Orsi is still not sure about the conformation of the deal so he allegedly used a British middleman, Christian Michel, 52, of Chelsea, from United Kingdom. A known figure in Delhi’s or India’s arms dealer circuit, Michel is now accused of linking AgustaWestland to India’s former Air chief marshal S.P. Tyagi. According to the court documents, Michel, as a consultant to AgustaWestland, had “promised and effectively funnelled, through the brothers Juli Tyagi, Docsa Tyagi and Sandeep Tyagi, sums of money, whose total amount has not been fully quantified, to Marshal S.P. Tyagi, the head of the Indian Air Force from 2004 to 2007, to carry out and for having carried out an act contrary to his official duty.”. But these are just allegations only and Mr. Tyagi had denied the allegations.

The crucial allegation is that the middlemen, through Tyagi, reduced the operational Requirement. According to allegations In initial tender the operating altitude was mentioned as 18000ft. AgustaWestland has used Tyagi brothers to reduce the operating altitude as 15000ft. The reduction in operating height was justified by stating that Prime Minister and President have rarely made visits to places involving flying at an altitude beyond 4,500m around 14,800ft.

When CBI plunged into action the case was out of their control and the probe has gone much beyond Italy. As alleged Cash was sent via a web of middlemen and companies in the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Tunisia and Mauritius to pay kickbacks in India. The government has sent a four-man delegation to Italy. Finmeccanica could be blacklisted for several years in India if the corruption allegations are proven. According to CBI “The focus of our investigation is to find out the nature of involvement of people within the defence ministry in fixing the deals, No deal is possible without their involvement.” 

Inference 

Allen had sent the proof for kickbacks about 9 months before the Italian police arrests Orsi. If the Indian agencies had promptly acted in case, at least little could be done for saving the Exchequer’s wallet. The kind of negligence/intentions prevailed with these agencies would be understood better if it is put in the voice of whistleblower Allen itself  “I gave them enough material to nab these guys. But I saw no investigation. I do not know why they waited for the Italian investigation to start the probe.” he said this in a personal interview to the Week.

Like the scams in the history speaks, even in this, the heat will subside soon(as another one arise) and convicts warms up for sketching their next mission. But the loss is for tax payers. In today’s scenario some saviour should “Fall from the Sky”(title justified…lol) to mark a Full stop for such scams in future. 

(Other Sources: TNIE, The Week)

 

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