New Delhi: Two companies, both headquartered in Chandigarh, are highlighted by Italian prosecutors for playing key roles in the delivery of alleged kickbacks from AgustaWestland to Indian officials to swing a 12-helicopter deal worth nearly 4,000 crores.
Aeromatrix was formed in Chandigarh in 2009, just as the contract for the helicopters was in its final stage of negotiations. The deal would be signed in 2010 with AgustaWestland (AW), whose parent company is Finmeccanica.
On the board of Aeromatrix were a lawyer named Gautam Khaitan, and Carlo Gerosa and Guido Ralph Haschke, both identified by Italian investigators as middlemen for AW. After Aeromatrix was formed, it allegedly bought the AgustaWestland contract from another Chandigarh company, IDS Infotech. It was a contract to handle software requirements for AW. This business officially generates about 8 crores annually for Aeromatrix, which has about 60 employees and offices in countries that include the Netherlands.
Mr Khaitan quit Aeromatrix in October, after reports emerged of financial malfeasance in the AW helicopter deal."The (Italian) prosecutor has never spoken to me. I have never met any officials of the AugustaWestland company," he told NDTV.
Praveen Bakshi, a senior executive with IDS Infotech, moved to Aeromatrix as CEO. "First of all, I am aware that the name (of the firm) figures in the preliminary report, but what is the context of that name figuring in that report, I am not very clear."
"Till today, I have not been contacted by anybody from Italy the Italian police or the Italian prosecutors," Mr Bakshi said to the Press Trust of India.
Italian prosecutors say that about 51 million euros or 140 crores were paid as kickbacks in India for the VVIP helicopter deal. They allege that this money was routed via the tax haven of Tunisia into India through a company named IDS India. The problem is that so far, this firm doesn't exist in any Indian records.
Aeromaxtrix is owned by a company named IDS Mauritius. That, and the fact that it tied up with IDS Infotech, is allegedly what has led Italian prosecutors to suggest that these firms were involved in the alleged money trail.