Sunday, February 24, 2013

The ghost of the helicopter past


Chennai: When the Italian newspaper Lettera 43 published a story that referenced the father of the main commission agent in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, Wolfgang Max Michel Richard, it unwittingly pointed to a relationship that India and Westland Helicopters shared back in the mid-1980s.
“It is believed that British citizen Michel received 60 per cent of the kickback amount of Rs. 360 crore from Finmeccanica, the manufacturers of AgustaWestland choppers. His contacts are stronger especially with the Indian Defence that he has inherited from his father, Wolfgang Max Michel Richard, a British businessman, who was very active in India between 80s and 90s and was close to the Congress party,” the report stated.
Back in 1985, India bought 21 Westland helicopters after Margaret Thatcher (then British Prime Minister) persuaded her Indian counterpart Rajiv Gandhi to ignore the advice of his experts, who were against the sale. The money for the deal, put at nearly £65 million, came out of Britain’s aid budget, and was given to India specifically for purchasing the helicopters.
24/02/13 KT Jagannathan/Anuj Srivas/The Hindu