Sonia, Manmohan’s role in Agusta deal exposed
In what could spell serious trouble for the Congress, an Italian court has in its judgment convicting AgustaWestland chopper company chief Giuseppe Orsi described how the firm paid bribes to top Congress leaders in India and lobbied with them to bag the Rs3,600-crore deal.
Citing the handwritten notes seized from middlemen, the judgment says the political leaders accepted commission of 15 to 16 million Euros (Around Rs 120 to 125 crore) in the controversial purchase of the 12 VVIP choppers. The judgment states how the firm lobbied with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her close aides besides then NSA MK Narayanan and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The judgment exposes the Congress’ role in pushing the deal and blames the erstwhile UPA Government for not cooperating with the Italian probe team. The other notes, part of the judgment, seized from the middlemen, say Sonia is the “driving force” behind this deal. Sonia’s name figures four times in the judgment.
The 225-page judgment of the appeal court in Milan also annexed several documents, including handwritten notes exchanged between the middlemen about the deal stating how the total commission of 30 million Euros (Rs 250 crore) was given to India’s political leaders, bureaucrats and Air Force officials.
BJP MP Bhupendra Yadav has given a Calling Attention notice to raise the issue in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday even as his Lok Sabha counterpart Meenakshi Lekhi on Monday raised the issue during the Zero Hour demanding a detailed probe. She said the Italian court judgment shows that the UPA Government has shown “substantial disregard” in arriving at the full truth behind the multi-crore scam.
Sonia’s name is mentioned in page 193 and 204 of the judgment, convicting Orsi and other officials of Finmeccania, the firm which manufactured AgustaWestland VVIP choppers. Orsi and other officials were convicted for four-and-half years.
A letter dated March 15, 2008, seized by investigators, shows main middleman Christian Michel, who is still a fugitive, having written to Peter Hulett, the then India sales head of the chopper company, that Sonia is the main driving force behind this deal and she will no longer fly in the existing MI- 8 choppers. The letter was quoted verbatim in the judgment, detailing lobbying and corruption of Congress leadership. It says, the then British High Commissioner in India should target top Congress leadership for the clinching the deal.
“Dear Peter, since Sonia Gandhi is the driving force behind VIP will no longer fly in the MI-8. Gandhi and her closest advisers are the people who the British ambassador should target,” said the letter of Michel seized by the probe team. This letter was seized from the home of arrested middlemen Guido Haschke in early 2013.
The judgment also says Haschke had in the court identified all the Congress leaders, when their photos were shown to him during the trial by the Italian prosecution.
Page 9 of the judgment also affixed the handwritten note of Michel exchanged with Haschke on how to distribute the total commission of 30 million Euros. Air Force officials were allotted six million Euros and bureaucracy, including Defence Ministry officials, was allotted 8.4 million Euros.
The note says political leaders closely connected to Sonia Gandhi were to be allotted 15 to 16 million Euros The note also shows sharing of commission with ‘family’ and the judgment says it was meant for the family of then Air Force chief SP Tyagi.
Page No 163 and 164 name Manmohan Singh and details that Orsi used Italian leadership and diplomats to contact the then Prime Minister to scuttle the probe by non-cooperation from the Indian Government’s side. In Page 163, the judgment produces a handwritten note by Orsi from jail in July 2013 asking his people to contact then Italian Prime Minister Monti or Ambassador Teracciano to call Manmohan Singh.
“Call Monti or amb. Teracciano in my name to ask him to call the PM Singh,” said the note seized from the prison cell of Orsi. The judgment in several areas blames the non-cooperation from Indian authorities including the Defence Ministry and other probe agencies in 2013, when the Congress-led UPA was in power.
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