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Chopper scam trail leads to murky deals in Tunisia

By Vicky Nanjappa
February 16, 2013 15:26 IST
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Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiaya has written a detailed petition to the Central Bureau of Investigation, seeking an investigation into the alleged link between Emmar MGF and AugustaWestland, the British firm embroiled in the VVIP chopper scam.

Somaiaya points out that the alleged role of Gautham Khaitan -- the legal counsel for Aeromatrix -- should be probed.

Aeromatrix is the Indian firm linked to Italian middleman Guido Ralph Haschk.

Khaitan’s name figures in the conversations between Guido Haschke and his partner partner Carlo Gerosa. A prospectus of Emmar MGF states that Khaitan was appointed as a director of the company on September 25, 2009.

Here is a piece of conversation between Haschke and his partner Carlo Gerosa, which was tapped by investigators in Italy and mentioned in the chargesheet of the case.

Gerosa says, “They (one of the three Indians mentioned in the chargesheet) just need to say. I take orders from there (India), but we can’t tell this openly to Gautam Khaitan. He is our borderline. The orders of money laundering came from us, but he was doing the real job. We are a real criminal association/conspiracy”.

Haschke says, “Yes, I was thinking about it earlier. Because if Gautam fears that Aeromatrix might be involved, he already told me, you heard no? Praveen (chief officer of Aeromatrix) is already very nervous”.

Khaitan has refuted all allegations against him, claiming that he acted only as a legal counsel for Haschke.

“My firm and I are acting as the lawyers for Aeromatrix for the limited purpose of helping the company with its statutory compliances in India and some other day-to-day matters,” he said.

Khaitan is one of the three Indians who have found a mention in the investigation in the multi-crore chopper scam undertaken by Italian authorities. The other two are Praveen Bakshi and Sanjeev Kumar Tyagi.

A company called IDS is also being probed by investigators in Italy and in India. The company allegedly received Rs 140 crore as kickbacks in the scam. The amount was received from the tax haven of Tunisia.

Investigators are trying to find out if there is a link between IDS Mauritius, IDS infotech and Aeromatrix.

Investigating officials believe that between 2007 and 2012, millions were paid by AugustaWestland to IDS Tunisia. The money was being transferred against fake bills. They are trying to find out if Khaitan has helped carry out this financial exchange.

Khaitan, a former director of Aeromatrix, denies any such role.

“I am a lawyer and not a businessman. After my resignation (as Aeromatrix director), I had requested the shareholders to transfer their nominee shareholding, which was subscribed by them for the purposes of the company's formation. I am not aware of the operations of the company and I had not found any irregularity in the operations when I was on the board of directors,” he clarified.

Kirit Somaiaya told that the role of Emmar MGF runs deeper in the scam and the Khaitan link should be investigated.

Khiatan, the director of Aeromatrix, was on the board of Emmar MGF during 2009.

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