The UPA government showed “substantial disregard” in arriving at the full truth behind the VVIP chopper scandal and didn’t share critical documents with investigators, an Italian court that found corruption in the Rs 3,565-crore deal observed. It also listed an effort by the main accused to get the then Italian prime minister Mario Monti to reach out to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

In its 225-page order, accessed by ET, the Court of Appeals, Milan, detailed at length its grounds for conviction. At one point, it observed (translated): “This showing (of) a substantial disregard to arrive at a full explanation of facts (was) effectively demonstrated by the procedural behaviour of the Indian Ministry of Defence.”

The Italian court — equivalent to an Indian High Court — further speculated whether this may be connected to a handwritten note recovered in March 2013 from former Finmeccanica head Giuseppe Orsi’s prison cell. “Call Monti or amb. Teracciano in my name to ask him to call the PM Singh,” the note said.

Monti was the then Italian PM while Teracciano was his diplomatic advisor. The court then went on to state that while it’s not in a “position to determine what was the message that Orsi, during his detention, intended to send to the head of Government of India but the same can be guessed if we think about the outcome of requests for judicial assistance sent to Indian authorities.”

A footnote explained that Italy had requested India in April 2013 to get full documentation in the case to prosecute, but only three documents were provided and that too by March 2014. In fact, the judgement, which also raised questions on the involvement of British middleman Christian Michel, extensively referred to a report by the Indian Comptroller of Auditor General (CAG) on the VVIP chopper contract to prove wrongdoing in the Indian procurement process.

The Italian court had earlier ruled that the 2010 deal to purchase 12 VVIP helicopters by India from AgustaWestland involved international corruption and ordered a four-and-a-half-years jail term to the former head of the company, Giuseppe Orsi.

 Based on taped conversations of middlemen and AgustaWestland officials as well as documents shared by the Italian prosecutors, the court observed that there are ‘unequivocal indications’ that there was corruption involved in the deal and that Orsi and others in the company undertook extreme efforts to block information and destroy evidence.
As reported by ET, on April 8, the Italian court of appeals overturned a lower court judgement that said corruption could not be proved. The court also found two of Finmeccanica’s former top bosses guilty of international corruption and money laundering. Besides Orsi, Bruno Spagnolini, who headed chopper division AgustaWestland, was also convicted and given a four-year jail term. The court fined them 7.5 million euros for violating Italian anticorruption rules.

Finmeccanica has always denied any wrongdoing in the case and the two convicted former bosses have said they will appeal against the court decision.
 In 2013, the Congress-led UPA government cancelled the VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland on grounds that the integrity pact was violated. The government has recovered most of the money paid to the Italian company for the contract and three VVIP choppers that were delivered to India have been mothballed.