Grow a spine, India and seek international assistance

AgustaWestland Swiss say India can ask for Hashckes extradition then why dont we
news Corruption Tuesday, May 03, 2016 - 18:14

Swiss authorities say India can request Italy to extradite Guido Ralph Hashcke the Italian-American middleman in the Rs. 3,600 crore VVIP Agusta Westland bribery scam. If this were to happen, Switzerland will examine their consent to his re-extradition to India from Italy.

“In the framework of the procedure regarding re-extradition, Switzerland would assess all relevant questions just like an ordinary extradition directly between Switzerland and India. Such assessments would include guarantees with regard to the safeguard of fundamental rights concerning penal proceedings in India,” Folco Galli, spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) told The News Minute (TNM). In addition to the Swiss, extradition would also have to be granted by Italy, he added.

Simply stated, if India wishes to pursue the helicopter kickback scandal in earnest, there is an international procedure and well-established pathway in place. While there is no extradition treaty between India and Switzerland, Swiss national laws can be invoked if it can be established that Hashcke’s crimes are also punishable in Switzerland (the principle of dual criminality).

The VVIP helicopter scam dogged the final years of the Congress-led UPA government with allegations of bribery and kickbacks being traded between India’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the helicopter manufacturer. Last week the former CEO of the Italian group Finmeccanica Guiseppe Orsi and former head of AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnolini were sentenced to jail for false accounting and corruption in the deal. Notes found on one of them in jail had names of Indian politicians UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and their close associates leading to a furore in India. There is however, no established between them and the bribes

Haschke and his associates worked through a maze of companies and countries to channel the bribes totalling over Rs. 350 crores for the sale of 12 VVIP helicopters. He is a well-known name in defence circles and his name came up in the testimony of Lorenzo Borgogni, the former head of external relations of Finmeccanica, Agusta Westland’s parent company. Italian investigators have been quoted as saying New Delhi fell far short of expectations of cooperation in punishing the guilty.

They are not entirely wrong. India has missed many boats even as it claims to be in hot pursuit of the guilty. “India could have asked for Haschke’s extradition along with Italy when they formally asked for this on April 5th 2013 – in principle India could have been a party to this request,” said Galli.  Haschke is among 13 people accused by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the bribes for helicopters scandal.

India will not be the first country to seek re-extradition. Galli referred to the recent arrests and extraditions in the on-going FIFA corruption case where in addition to United States of America (USA), Uruguay and Nicaragua have asked for senior FIFA functionaries to be extradited to face justice in their countries.

Eugenio Figueredo, former vice-president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and former vice-president of FIFA was arrested in the Swiss city of Zurich in 2015 on the basis of a US arrest request. He was finally extradited to Uruguay which had also sought his return to face justice at home. Swiss authorities granted this request on the basis of the resolution of priority between the Uruguayan and the equally valid US request. Similarly, the FOJ also approved the extradition to the USA of Nicaraguan citizen Julio Rocha, former president of his country’s football federation and senior FIFA official. He was arrested in 2015 on charges of demanding and accepting bribes of $150,000 for himself and another soccer official for the sale of marketing rights. The FOJ has now decided that Rocha will be extradited first to the USA while simultaneously approving his subsequent extradition to Nicaragua.

There are immediate lessons in India for this. The moot point here is the fact that US authorities have launched wide-ranging criminal proceedings against a number of individuals. In contrast, the Nicaraguan authorities have brought charges against a single individual which does not permit Swiss authorities an overall evaluation of facts in hand. The CBI’s action against 13 individuals is closer to what US authorities are doing. Read both extradition cases here and here.

India’s options are the following

Connect with Italian authorities to decide on a joint course of action

Connect with Swiss authorities to explore all options for Haschke’s extradition learning from the on-going FIFA cases as well as others

Haschke also holds a US passport – seek support from Washington

And yes, grow a spine.

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