Swiss authorities arrest alleged middleman in Augusta Westland chopper deal

Guido Ralph Haschke, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, has been arrested by Swiss authorities on charges of bribery, Italian media reports.

According to Italian news website, La Repubblica, Haschke's, extradition to Italy could happen as early as next week, if he did not appeal against the extradition proceedings before the Swiss Federal court.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, the court in Switzerland ruled that Haschke could be extradited to Italy.

The Rs3,600-crore VVIP AgustaWestland helicopter supply contract under the lens of Italian and Indian agencies for alleged kickbacks paid to Indian officials - including former IAF chief SP Tyagi - to clinch the deal.

The allegations had been denied by Tyagi. In addition to Swiss-American Haschke, the CBI which is probing the bribery allegations, has accused 12 others in the deal.

"Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa (both middlemen) managed to send 5.6 million euros through Mohali-based IDS Infotech and Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix Info Solutions Private Ltd to India and kept the remaining amount of about 24.30 million euros received from AgustaWestland with themselves in the account of IDS Tunisia," according to the CBI FIR in the case.

According to the allegation of the Italian prosecutor who carried out the preliminary inquiry, the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of the UK-based AgustaWestland, had used middlemen to bribe Indian officials.

The CBI has alleged that during his tenure as the IAF chief, Tyagi and "with his approval" the Air Force "conceded to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 m to 4,500 m as mandatory (although) it was vehemently opposing the same on grounds of security constraints and other related reasons".