File photo of Guido Ralph Haschke

Haschke had assured the company that the norms will be tweaked allowing AgustaWestland to participate in the tender

by Raghav Ohri

If one thought caste played a role only in state or assembly elections in India, sample the views of an alleged middleman in the VVIP chopper scandal.

“The Tyagi family is an important family in India because they are Brahmins in the Indian caste system. Although they do not exist legally, however, formally they still have a weight. Brahmins are the most important caste, therefore an important family,” this is what Guido Ralph Haschke deposed before an Italian court.

This was stated by Haschke in his plea-bargain statement before an Italian court, throwing light on the homework done by him to ensure that the VVIP chopper deal is bagged by M/s AgustaWestland. Haschke was convicted for a lesser sentence by an Italian court after his confessional statement. He is an alleged associate of Christian Michel, currently under the custody of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for his alleged role in the deal.

The then Air Chief SP Tyagi and his brother Julie Tyagi stand charge sheeted in the AgustaWestland scandal. Tyagis have always denied any role in the case.

Haschke claimed that his partner Carlo Gerosa — third alleged middleman — had introduced him to Julie Tyagi, who he knew long before him (Hascke). He said that Julie, in his youth, was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and later became a businessman.

Haschke’s cross-examination statement, accessed by ET, also reveals that Haschke underlined the significance of Indian legal and bureaucratic processes to ensure AgustaWestland bags the deal. 

He highlighted the need for “slavish compliance” of all requirements of the procedure for award of a tender in India.

“India is a country in which there is a great deal of bureaucracy — the term red tape originated in India because the British administration tied the folders with a red ribbon. The Indian administration, in any sector of the public administration, is extremely bureaucratic and is filled with checks and double checks, so that if any steps are taken…that is, there are bureaucratic pitfalls everywhere. If one is not extremely careful, at the very least there is the risk of wasting a great deal of time. So a large part of our work in the final process of the tender was to try to avoid taking any false steps that would have, if not compromised, in any case greatly increased the time for its award,” said Haschke in his cross-examination before an Italian court.

Haschke added “In India, although quality is undoubtedly important, procedures are just as important…compliance with all the procedures in detail, there are countless cases. Also concurrent with this tender, of very important companies, to name but a few Boeing and EADS, that have won tenders but the contracts were not awarded because in the end some cavil or other is discovered, or someone has objected either on grounds of budget or on grounds of compliance, for any reason.”

To prove his point, he said “there are a great many cases of this type, and therefore it is absolutely essential, besides…that is, it is without doubt, let us say, it is a necessary condition but not enough to have the best quality. But I repeat, it is a necessary condition but not enough. A necessary and sufficient condition is that, having the best quality, all the rules are observed so that in the end no-one can challenge award of the tender.”

Haschke claims to have informed company’s then CEO Giuseppe Orsi in advance that the tender for VVIP choppers will be called “lowering the operating ceiling”.

Haschke had assured the company that the norms will be tweaked allowing AgustaWestland to participate in the tender. Haschke had offered a “fruitful collaboration” to ensure that AgustaWestland bid was as competitive as possible and to maximise AgustaWestland’s possibilities of success.