Guido Ralph Haschke, 64, one of the alleged middlemen wanted in the Rs3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal in India, has disappeared from Interpol's public list of wanted people. India's Enforcement Directorate, which issued the Red Notice that put him on the list in the first place, has not given an official response for the mysterious development.
Surprisingly, the other two suspected middlemen in the case--Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel--still feature on the public Interpol list. The ED had issued Red Notices under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against all three in November 2015. Haschke was removed from the list available to the public between October and November 2016, multiple officials tracking the case said, on the condition of anonymity.
Haschke, Gerosa and Michel are all wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) relating to the AgustaWestland bribery scandal, in which top Indian officials and politicians are alleged to have received kickbacks from the chopper-maker in an order for 12 helicopters meant for use by India's President, Prime Minister and other top constitutional figures.
On 9 December, the CBI arrested the former chief of Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, in relation to the case.
Interpol notices are issued by law enforcement agencies to ensure that suspects don't cross over international borders. They are also meant to alert the public about wanted and dangerous people. Depending on the severity of the offence, there are multiple grades such as Red, Pink, and Blue.
Gains In Being Removed From The Public List
From the point of view of a suspect, there are several benefits in being removed from the publicly available list. It includes being able to carry on business activity and open bank accounts. Considering that Haschke was on the board of several companies, being removed from the list available would facilitate resumption of at least some business activity.
Has Haschke struck a deal?
This has raised suspicion about a possible deal. Is New Delhi considering making Haschke an approver? If the Government of India is looking at a political nexus, then Haschke holds the key. He was the prosecution witness under a plea bargain in Italy. His allegations, in the form of a note, suggest that a certain amount of kickbacks were earmarked to be paid to politicians in India. This note, however, has been contested by Michel as a forgery.
Replying to queries from HuffPost India, the CBI said that the Enforcement Directorate should be asked about the matter since it had issued the alert. The ED declined comment. However, a top ED official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told HuffPost India that the Red Notice against all three suspects—Haschke, Michel and Gerosa—remain. He claimed that the suspected middleman's name has been removed from the list following a representation Haschke made to Interpol.
The ED officer said that Interpol had informed the agency that Haschke is being removed from the public list since his location was known (presumably to Italian law enforcement agencies) and taking into account his appeal that his name be removed to protect him against harm from the public. However, Indian officials don't yet know Haschke's location. "We have asked Interpol to inform us about his location," the officer said.
The Red Notice for Haschke is now available only to the law enforcement agencies manning borders, he added.
Interestingly, Interpol Press Office, in an email response to HuffPost India's queries, said: "If an individual does not appear on the website this could either mean a) that there is no Red Notice for this person, or b) that the country requesting a Red Notice has asked that it be restricted to law enforcement only." This response clearly indicates that Haschke couldn't have got Interpol to remove his name without India officially supporting his plea.
Essentially there is little clarity on how Haschke's name vanished from the public list while the two other suspects are still named. Interpol says that Red Notices are removed from public domain only at the request of the country that originated the alert. The ED's unofficial stance is that Haschke's name has been removed by Interpol following his direct plea to that agency. It doesn't add up.
What is Haschke suspected role?
Haschke is a key figure in the alleged bribery scandal. Documents recovered from him led to unearthing of the bribery scam and the subsequent arrests of senior functionaries in Italy; it kicked off investigations in India as well.
Haschke later turned approver in Italy, helping the agencies working on the case. The CBI and ED suspect that about Rs360 crores were paid as bribes in India by Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica (now renamed Leonardo-Finmeccanica) to bag the contract to supply twelve AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force that cost India Rs3,600 crores. Haschke, Gerosa and Michel are alleged to have routed million euros to India through companies based in Mauritius and India.