Chopper deal: CBI gets documents from Italy
A Preliminary Enquiry would be initiated soon after examining the documents received from Italy, sources said.
New Delhi: Moving forward in its probe into alleged kickbacks in the VVIP helicopter deal, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has procured some documents from Italian authorities in Milan that may help it investigating whether any Indian had received bribes to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland. Highly-placed sources in the probe agency said on Sunday that one of the members of the CBI team who returned Sunday morning from Milan had got some of the documents from the Italian prosecutor regarding the controversial Rs 3,600 crore deal, which would now be examined in the next couple of days.
The sources said a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) would be initiated in the next couple of days after examining the documents received from the Italian authorities. It has been alleged that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore were allegedly paid to help secure the deal in favour of the Anglo-Italian firm.
While declining to reveal the nature of documents, the sources said prima-facie it seemed sufficient to initiate a PE against unknown persons since Italian authorities could share only these papers at this stage. The authorities have, however, promised to hand over other documents once their probe is completed.
One of the two CBI officers was still in Milan to take some more documents and would be arriving on Monday, the sources said. The CBI team is also pinning its hope on the assurance made by the Italian government-controlled Finmeccanica group, parent company of AgustaWestland helicopters, that it would provide assistance in probing bribery allegations against some Indian nationals.
During the meeting, CBI officials had requested the Italian firm to hand over the report of its internal probe to them so that it could be examined in India and a proper investigation could be conducted. The CBI team along with officials from Defence and External Affairs Ministry had also met senior officials of the Italian judiciary including the judge in the case to request for assistance in probing the role of Indians in connection with alleged kickbacks in the deal.
Some more assistance would be provided after the local elections in Italy would be over this week, the team was told besides been conveyed that that the probe in that country was at a preliminary stage. The visiting team was also told that the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, chairman of the Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, Chief Executive officer of AgustaWestland, was more of a preventive nature so that they did not tamper with evidence.
CBI has already hired two law firms -- Chiomenti and Grippo -- to help in coordinating with the Italian authorities for getting documents and other relevant material pertaining to the deal for supplying 12 helicopters to India. The two law firms have been appointed keeping in mind their work in international cases.
Chiomenti law firm was established in 1948 and has 270 attorneys in six countries including in London. Grippo law firm with 360 attorneys has a presence in five countries including the UK.
The CBI's decision to send a team to Italy came after it virtually drew a blank from the Defence Ministry in getting information required for its probe. The CBI was handed over a letter from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe by it in the case which has triggered a political storm in the country.
Attached with the letter were some Indian and Italian press clippings, which, the CBI said, could not form the basis for registering a case. This was followed by CBI seeking help of Interpol which also expressed inability to provide any help in the absence of any regular case not having been registered by the agency, they said.