Politics

AgustaWestland Wrap-Up Part Two: Attention Now Shifts to Guido, Emaar-MGF and Rahul Gandhi

As the unravelling of the AgustaWestland case moves into more specific details, The Wire lists and identifies the questions that have emerged over the last week and the issues that need to be addressed.

Since blacklisting the company would have have cast a shadow on all or most of these deals, both the governments had imposed restrictions on a prospective basis only. Credit: http://no.agustawestland.com/

Italian authorities have alleged that AgustaWestland’s parent Finmeccanica funnelled money through IDS India and IDS Tunisia in the form of fake software contracts. Credit: http://no.agustawestland.com/

New Delhi:  The controversy surrounding the $450-million AgustaWestland helicopter deal continued this week, with attention now shifting to former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the corporate dealings of real estate firm Emaar-MGF Group.

On Monday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioned Tyagi for apparently over 10 hours, trying to trace the links between the former airforce chief and the Italian middlemen mentioned in the recent Milan Court of Appeals judgement.

On the same day, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya announced that he would ask in Parliament why one of the Agusta middlemen was made a director at the Emaar-MGF Group, a company that allegedly has connections to one Kanishka Singh, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi.

As the unravelling of the AgustaWestland case moves into more specific details, The Wire lists and identifies the questions that have emerged over the last week and the issues that need to be addressed.

Who are Guido Ralph Haschke and Gautam Khaitan?

Guido Ralph Haschke is one of the three middle-men who allegedly helped defence contractor AgustaWestland secure the helicopter deal with the UPA government in 2010. Gautam Khaitan is a New Delhi-based lawyer who was arrested in 2014 because of his connections with Guido and another middle-man named Carlo Gerosa.

Guido and Khaitan were appointed as director and additional director of the Emaar MGF Group board in late 2009.

Why were they appointed by Emaar-MGF and why is that relevant now?

It has assumed importance now because Emaar-MGF Land Managing Director Shravan Gupta’s close relative is a man named Kanishka Singh. Kanishka Singh, according to media reports is a close aide of Rahul Gandhi.

Why Guido and Khaitan were appointed onto the Emaar-MGF board is an extremely puzzling question. Guido for instance was “an independent non-executive director” for a brief period of two months from September 2009 to December 2009. What makes matters a little more muddy is that apparently Khaitan was the one who introduced Guido to Gupta as a person who had work experience at the World Bank in Washington. Based on this, Guido was appointed onto the Emaar-MGF board by Gupta.

It’s unclear at the moment why Guido was removed as director after only two short months.

It is also unclear whether Kanishka Singh (and therefore Rahul Gandhi) even knew Guido and Khaitan. In sharp remarks today, Singh has termed Somaiya’s allegations as “entirely baseless, false and with an ulterior political motive.”

Is that the only connection Khaitan has to the AgustaWestland case?

No, one of the reasons why the Emaar-MGF Group connection is also under scrutiny is because of the connection that Khaitan and Guido have with two companies named Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech.

Khaitan helped Guido and Gerosa incorporate Aeromatrix in 2009 and served on the company’s board from 2009 to 2012. IDS Infotech, a Chandigarh-based firm, received business from AgustaWestland through Guido and sold that business unit to Aeromatrix.

Why all of this is important is because the Italian authorities have alleged that AgustaWestland’s parent Finmeccanica funnelled money through IDS India and IDS Tunisia in the form of fake software contracts. This funnelled money was used to pay bribes and secure the helicopter contract.

What still needs to be answered?

Kanishka Singh told The Indian Express that he has “absolutely nothing to do with the matter” and that he has been estranged from the family behind Emaar-MGF since 2005 over personal disputes over ownership of the company.

Emaar-MGF officials have pointed out that Guido, during his tenure on the company board, apparently never “attended any board meeting and never visited the company’s offices”. He has also not represented the company in any public forum.

While Guido’s tenure on the Emaar-MGF board seems a little puzzling – especially because there’s very little publicly available information about Guido’s credentials and his alleged stint at the World Bank in Washington – the CBI and Enforcement Director need to decide whether these allegations are credible. This after all isn’t the first time they’ve been raised: Guido and Khaitan’s involvement with Emaar-MGF has been known as long ago as 2013.

The CBI will question Khaitan later this week after it is done with Tyagi and his cousins who have also been been identified by the Italian court order as conspirators in the AgustaWestland scandal.

What is the status of the investigation on Tyagi?

Tyagi has a long road ahead of him. According to PTI, the CBI is probing into the details made public by the Italian court order. Much of this revolves around the statements made by Guido and Gerosa, who claim that they met Tyagi a number of times between 2004-2007. The agency is also probing Tyagi’s post-retirement trip to various Italian cities and the funding behind those trips.