VVIP chopper scam: No direct evidence against Sonia Gandhi, says Italian judge

Congress President Sonia Gandhi PTI
There is no evidence linking Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, Judge Marco Maigo, the president of the Court of Appeals in Italy, told NewsX television channel on Tuesday.

Maigo, who pronounced and signed the 225-page judgement in the scam, added that there was only one mention of Gandhi's name in a translated fax which had originally been sent to James Christian Michel — one of the alleged middlemen in the scam.

Maigo also said that Gandhi had only "been indicated as someone who will fly in the VVIP helicopters" and that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was mentioned in the same context. The manuscript, Maigo told NewsX, was found in the possession of Giuseppe Orsi, the head of defence group Finmeccanica SpA, the parent company of AgustaWestland.

Late last month, the Bharatiya Janata Party had picked up on reports in the Italian media, based on Maigo's judgement, which cited notes from middlemen, to attack the Congress president.

One particular note from a middleman reportedly described Gandhi as the "driving force" behind the deal for 12 AW-101 helicopters worth euro 556 million (currently Rs 4,195 crore).

Here is what Maigo had to say to NewsX on a host of issues connected to scam and the judgement:

1) On United Progressive Alliance (UPA) cooperation in probe: Maigo said that the Government of Italy had sought co-operation from the then UPA administration in conducting the investigation. However, the relevant documents were not provided.

2) The abbreviations: When asked to explain the meaning of the abbreviations used in the notes, Maigo revealed that "AF" stands for Air Force, "BUR" is Bureaucrats, while the rest are initials of Indian agencies like CAG (Comptroller and auditor general of India), CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) etc. He added that "AP" refers to the initials of Ahmed Patel and "FAM" stood in for former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi and his family.

3) Tyagi's connection: Maigo explained that there is a manuscript of businessman Guido Haschke, another alleged middleman in the scam, which talks of his relationship with the Tyagi family (the 3 brothers).

4) If Indians were paid: When asked if other than the Tyagi brothers, any more Indian suspects were involved, Maigo said, “We have traces of several Indians who could be involved and Indian agencies should investigate into the matter.”

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