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Can Italy blackmail India?
Publication Date : 29-10-2012
Italian investigators probing corruption by middlemen in various defence deals stumbled upon a taped conversation between some of them related to the Indian VVIP helicopter deal negotiated by the Augusta Westland firm.
The conversation recorded on the tape is between the Swiss-based consultant, Guido Haschke, and his Italian counterparts. Currently Swiss authorities have placed Haschke under arrest due to evidence unearthed in the Italian investigations.
Allegedly a commission of 51 million euros (US$65 million) was offered to him for influencing Indian and Italian officials to bag the lucrative VVIP helicopter deal. The transcript of the taped conversation between Haschke and his Italian collaborators has been released by investigators and has even been reproduced in sections of the Indian media.
Italian investigators have acquired hundreds of hours of conversation related to Haschke and his associates discussing how decisions are influenced in India and how money can be laundered.
In one long excerpt of such conversation the name of the Indian mastermind who can swing the deal is constantly referred to. But curiously enough in the transcript made available by the Italian investigators the name of this mystery individual is withheld.
Repeatedly the transcript refers to the name as “incomprehensible”. Presumably this name cannot be deciphered by the investigators after repeated reference.
Thus a typical reference to “incomprehensible” recorded in the tapes goes thus: “They just need to say: I take orders “incomprehensible”. I take orders from “incomprehensible” in India.” This brazen claim by the Italian investigators that the name after repeated mention cannot be comprehended can be thrown in the trash can. India’s Ministry of Defence has demanded of the Italians they share all information related to the helicopter deal. That clearly is not enough.
The Indian government must demand a copy of the tape in order to ascertain the name of the mastermind whose word was law for the Italian businessmen and Indian officials with whom they dealt.
If by any chance the name reveals an individual whose exposure could threaten the survival of the United Progressive Alliance government the matter becomes one of grave national security. The Italians and the Swiss could in that event blackmail this government. Because this is a matter that could affect national security, the president can order the government to insist that the Italians hand over a copy of the tape. The public has a right to know the identity of the mastermind.
One waits with bated breath to see how TV channels that run 20-part exposes of corruption deal with this issue. One also waits to see how the anti-corruption crusaders of Jantar Mantar who receive such wide coverage on TV also deal with this issue.