Chopper deal: No evidence to link politicians with AgustaWestland bribes, says Italian judge who delivered verdict
On a day that the BJP and Congress traded charges in Parliament regarding the controversial AgustaWestland deal, the Italian judge who delivered the verdict in the VVIP chopper said there was no 'direct evidence' linking any Indian politician with alleged kickbacks.
New Delhi: On a day that the BJP and Congress traded charges in Parliament regarding the controversial AgustaWestland deal, the Italian judge who delivered the verdict in the VVIP chopper said there was no 'direct evidence' linking any Indian politician with alleged kickbacks.
There is a "possibility or probability but there is no direct evidence," Judge Marco Maria Maiga, who delivered the verdict against Italian middlemen and senior officials of the chopper company, told TV channels, as per reports.
Maiga, a judge of a Milan court, said this when he was asked whether he believed that bribes were offered to Indian politicians by Italian middlemen.
He maintained that his verdict was only against senior officials of the chopper company and middlemen who had paid bribes to some officials in India and that it was up to Indian investigators to follow the money trail.
"Identifying the (Indian)individuals was not in for judgement for Italian courts. Well, we have to clarify that the object of our judgement was on two Italian businessmen and their indictment," he said, as per PTI.
He said his order was based on documents which probably showed that the family of former IAF chief SP Tyagi received the money till April 2012.
The judge said the bribes could have gone to others who were instrumental in bringing in the AgustaWestland helicopters to India but "we have no evidence."
Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christan Michel, who have been sentenced by the court, have alleged in the court that the money was paid to "family Tyagi along with Shashi Tyagi."
Tyagi has denied any involvement in alleged payoffs.
Asked about the cooperation received from the Indian government as he had mentioned "substantial disinterest on clarification of facts in the case" on behalf of Indian side, the judge said "all we had was a copy of the CAG, request for proposal, agreement copy and nothing more than that."
"We can take note of what is sent to us," he said.
On an unsigned note cited by the prosecutor in the judgment in which some names like 'AP' were mentioned, the jduge said one accused said he did not remember whereas another accused alleged it was Ahmed Patel, a political aide of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Patel today denied any involvement in the deal and said he will quit public life and resign from Rajya Sabha if any allegation against him is proved.
BJP, Congress trade charges in Parliament
Meanwhile, the chopper deal today triggered a stormy debate and trading of charges in the Rajya Sabha with the entire Opposition pressing for a Supreme Court-monitored probe while Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke of an "invisible hand" in preventing an investigation in UPA tenure.
Newly-nominated BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who was fielded by the ruling side, demanded recording of statement from former PM Manmohan Singh along with others named in the judgement of the Italian court.
The ruling and the Opposition benches clashed repeatedly as the House took up a short-duration discussion on the raging row over the Rs 3600 crore deal.
The five-hour debate ended with a walkout by Congress after its demand for SC-monitored probe was rejected by the government.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad described as an "insult" the Defence Minister reading out a prepared statement in his reply and said it contained only allegations.
As Congress members raised objections to Parrikar reading out his reply from a prepared text, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien ruled that a minister has all the right to read from a prepared speech.
Swamy, who has already tilted at the windmills last week seeking to drag Sonia Gandhi into the row, refrained from naming her but made suggestive remarks on Congress leadership, repeatedly drawing protests from the Opposition side.
The Congress fielded the then Defence Minister AK Antony, Sonia's political secretary Ahmed Patel along with Abhishek Manu Singhvi to defend the actions of the previous UPA government, insisting that there was no wrongdoing.
All of them pressed for a thorough and urgent probe into the matter to clear the air, with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad wanting the investigation to be monitored by the Supreme Court and completed in three months.
The government, however, rejected the demand.
(With Agency inputs)