Travel Agent, 2 Private Firm Chiefs Questioned In Augusta Scam

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New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday questioned a city-based travel agent, the chiefs of two private firms and a Delhi-based lawyer in connection with alleged payoffs in the Rs.3,600-crore AugustaWestland helicopter deal.

Delhi-based travel agent RK Nanda was questioned at the headquarters of the CBI in Delhi along with the chairman of IDS Infotech Ltd (India), Pratap Kumar Aggarwal; the CEO of Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt Ltd, Praveen Bakshi; and lawyer Gautam Khaitan, who had been questioned on four days until Saturday, CBI sources said.

Mr Nanda, a travel agent in Connaught Place in Delhi, informed the CBI officials that he along with the middleman Christian Michel had set up a shell company Media Exim in 2005. He said nearly Rs.7 crore was sent between October 2005 and April 2007 to Media Exim’s account from Global Service FZE, which was Christian Michael’s company in Dubai.

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The CBI is trying to verify the destination where the money finally went, the sources said.

On the questioning of Mr Aggarwal and Mr Bakshi, the CBI sources said the two were again quizzed about the nature of services their companies provided to AugustaWestland. Mr Aggarwal and Mr Bakshi have been called for questioning again on Wednesday, CBI sources said.

Firms Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd (India) and Aeromatrix India are the accused companies booked by the CBI in the First Information Report (FIR) lodged in March 2013 in connection with the AugustaWestland case.

The sources said that Mr Khaitan, who is alleged to have formed shell companies to route the bribe money to India, was evasive during interrogation.

Mr Khaitan had earlier informed the CBI that he had taken payments from Augusta middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. He has also been a former board member of Aeromatrix.

He was also instrumental in setting up IDS Infotech (Tunisia) — a subsidiary company of IDS Infotech (India), one of the accused companies.

The source said they have information that “lots of money” was transferred to the account of IDS Infotech Tunisia from some bank accounts in Italy. This was later sent to other countries.

But, the informed sources said, Mr Khaitan did not give clear input about the purpose for which he had received the payments.

The chopper deal, which was cancelled in January 2013, resurfaced after an Italian court last month purportedly referred to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh among others in connection with the chopper deal but gave no details of any wrongdoing by the two leaders.

Former IAF chief SP Tyagi and 13 others, including his cousins and European middlemen, have also been named in the FIR.