January 7, 2019
On Wednesday in Lok Sabha during a discussion on the Rafale jet deal, when some Opposition members started throwing paper planes in the House, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made a pun and said, “I think these planes are being flown in the memory of Eurofighters”.
In August 2007 when request for proposal (RFP) to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) was released by India, France’s Rafale was competing with five other fighter jets. By April 2011, following a complex evaluation and testing procedure of the Air Force, the final competition was reduced between two fighter jets, Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, from which Rafale was chosen over Eurofighter.
Documents accessed by India Today TV have now revealed that two middlemen accused of getting kickbacks in the VVIP Agustawestland chopper deal also strategised for Rafale’s competitor Eurofighter in order to seal the deal in its favour.
A “strategy paper” seized during the raids at Italian middleman Guido Haschke’s residence and offices has revealed that Christian Michel and Guido Haschke worked on a plan to place Rafale’s prime competitor in the “win zone”.
A need to engage “an in-country bureaucratical and political navigator” has also been mentioned in the documents.
“This man should have worked in the MOD and know well on first name basis and not just the MOD, key bureaucrats and the minister but also the PM, Finance Minister and the Leading Family,” the document further reads.
The strategy paper allegedly prepared with consultation from Christian Michel and Guido Haschke further notes, “there are only 3 candidates for such a job and only one of the 3 is available”.
While the strategy paper recovered from the Italian middleman talked about lobbying the politicians, a plan to lobby three Air Force officials is also mentioned as “the 3 bosses of maintenance must be lobbed i.e. Chief of Maintenance Command, Air Officer Maintenance and Chief of Engineering”.
Christian Michel is currently in custody and is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his role in the AgustaWestland chopper deal case.
Guido Haschke is an Italian businessman who is also named as an accused in the chopper deal case. He served a brief sentence in Italy and became a witness following which a red corner notice against his name, which was issued on the request of India, was withdrawn by the Interpol.
Eurofighter is designed by a consortium of multinational defence companies from UK, Germany, Italy and Spain. Italian firm Finmeccanica which makes AgustaWestland choppers owns 21 per cent shares in the Eurofighter consortium.
A source familiar with the process told India Today TV, “This strategy paper was prepared in 2008 and was given for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) but it was not known if and to what extent the company used the services of these middlemen”.
Michel and Haschke had a fallout after the signing of the VVIP chopper deal in 2010 while Rafale and Eurofighter were still competing to win the contract for 126 fighter jets.
It was only in 2012 that it was announced that Rafale had won the competition but the final deal could not be signed as negotiations continued. The NDA government later signed a deal with the French government to buy 36 Rafale fighter planes in a flyaway condition citing urgent requirements of the Air Force.