Ranjit Sinha, the Vatican, and the crooked AgustaWestland helicopter deal – Chitra Subramaniam

Ranjit Sinha

Chitra Subramaniam“The crux of the matter is that Indian taxpayers were fooled [in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal], India was cheated, Italian courts have produced evidence that bribes were paid, Switzerland has extradited one of the middlemen, and we are being led to believe that India is working furiously to find the guilty. The contract has been cancelled but we have failed to retrieve a bank guaranty and have been forced into arbitration by AgustaWestland.” – Chitra Subramaniam

Vatican City in RomeLate afternoon on Friday, April 18, 2014, a piece of information was circulated in New Delhi stating that Ranjit Sinha, Director, Central Bureau of Information had met the Indian envoy to Italy, Basant Kumar Gupta. The meeting, sources told the media, was arranged on the sidelines of a conference organized by the London Metropolitan Police on human trafficking.

Sources told journalists the meeting took stock of the state of play of the AgustaWestland case in Italian courts. The two men reportedly discussed India’s judicial request the Letter Rogatory (LR) in Italy and Sinha discussed ways and means to fast-track the agency’s probe into the deal.

We found acronyms, religious projects and a call by India’s caged-parrot – as Singh famously called himself recently – to set up a Global March of Religious Priests against Human Trafficking. We also found out that the CBI had proposed itself as a nodal agency to channelize funds to NGOs in India. We are left wondering what bishops and cardinals know about helicopters.

The News Minute has been following this story closely. We were keen to find out of Sinha had been to Milan where Guido Haschke, one of the middlemen in the 560 million Euro VVIP helicopter deal, was seeking to turn approver (plea bargaining). That deal with the Italian prosecution was to be approved by a Judge in the Tribunal of Busto Arsizio, a village in northern Italy near Milan on April 11, 2014. If that happened, it would be the first sentencing in the chopper scam where 50 million Euros have been paid as bribes.

CBI HQ New DelhiThe CBI was not available to comment

Unable to get any answers for the plea-bargaining deal, we conducted our own investigation and this is what we found. The conference on human trafficking was organized not by the London Police but by the Vatican. Titled “Church and Law Enforcement in Partnership,” the conference held on 9-10 April 2014, had four aims: Prevention, Pastoral Care, Reintegration and Developing an International Network of Bishop’ Conferences and Law Enforcement agencies.

TNM also found out that preparation for this meeting was underway for several weeks. On March 11, 2014, the head of London’s Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was confirmed as participating in the meeting which was chaired by Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Read all about these meetings and Sinha’s address in the links below.

During his speech, India’s top sleuth said many NGO on the ground were not connected and starved of funds that needed to be better channelized. “The CBI can be a nodal agency with the help of known experts in India and this agency can be the facilitating body for channelization of funds, if required.” How can the CBI channelise funds? Did Ranjit Sinha get any clearance before saying this?

Ranjit Sinha also spoke about the need to protect vulnerable communities. Sinha held forth on the distinction between human trafficking and illegal immigration stating that both have certain common currents. “Whereas in trafficking the person does not give informed consent, in illegal migration, the person’s consent is distinct. However an illegal migrant can be eventually trafficked,” he said pointing to examples from Kerala.

“The recent series of cases of trafficking from Kerala by the CBI is a clear example of human trafficking taking place in façade of illegal migration,” Singh said. According to him a lakh and ten thousand children are reported to be missing out of which 40,000 remain untraced.

Sinha said an important initiative in preventing trafficking in the source area and in containing demand is involvement of religious priests. An Inter Religion Priest Forum (IRPF) was set up in several States in India like Bihar, Jharkhand. “These forums had religion priests from different communities and religions in India.… IRPF has made tremendous impact in preventing and combating human trafficking,” said Sinha adding that this good practice could be replicated elsewhere in the world.

Given the international nature of the problem, Sinha said IRPF and AHTU could be institutionalized more robustly. “Congregation of religious priests from different communities and religions can be organized across the globe…. It could generate a “Global March of Religious Priests against Human Trafficking.”

Pope Francis "the Humble" grooming a little boy?Pope Francis addressed the 20-odd participants. “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity,” he said.

The conference – second of its kind – is the brainchild of the Bishop’ Conference of England and Wales in collaboration with the UK Police Force and was hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja has been battling human trafficking for decades together with missionaries, religious and lay activists whom he called “foot soldiers” in service of the Gospel.

India’s top sleuth is free to attend any meetings around the world. Why did the caged-parrot tell India he went to a meeting on human trafficking organized by the London Metropolitan Police and the AgustaWestland LR discussion was business as usual during such a crucial week in the prosecution’s diary? 

What else is India’s top sleuth hiding? – The News Minute, 21 April 2014

AgustaWestland Helicopter

AgustaWestland: Is CBI Director Ranjit Sinha Hiding Information? – Chitra Subramaniam

This is an example of how what you don’t say becomes more important than what you say. Here’s why.

Ranjit Sinha, the Director of India’s premier investigating agency the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) went to Rome last week to attend a conference organized by the London Metropolitan Police, we were told. (See related story above).

Since he was there, he dropped in to meet the Indian envoy, like that only. For the record, we learnt that he discussed ways and means to speed up India’s judicial request, the Letter Rogatory (LR) with Italy about the AgustaWestland bribes-for-helicopters deal.

The caged-parrot, as India’s top sleuth described himself recently, “pressed” for early and urgent action. Together with India’s Ambassador to Italy Basant Kumar Gupta, he discussed “ways and means for better coordination with Italian authorities to secure crucial information sought by the agency in its request,” sources told the media over this weekend.

Why India’s top sleuth didn’t go to Milan (three hours by train from Rome) is not known. Neither is it known if he did. Milan is close to Burso Arsizio, a village in northern Italy where Italian prosecutors and courts are fairly close to knowing all about who paid what to whom, when and why in the 560 million Euro Indian contract for VVIP helicopters. The prosecutors have already said that AugustaWestland paid 50 million Euros in bribes. On the basis of their evidence, Switzerland has extradited one of the middlemen Guido Haschke who has decided to enter into plea bargaining.

A decision on his request by the judge was expected on April 11 – the same week that Ranjit Singh was in Rome. Was he present when the decision was announced? What is the decision? Was the statement about attending a police conference in Rome a cagey reference to presence in Italy at the right time in the right place or wrong place? Is India to conclude that delay in the LR means the CBI was not present and/or is not party to what Haschke is doing or saying? Questions and more questions, beginning with – why?

Giuseppe OrsiIf the Italian judge has ratified Haschke’s request, it will be the first sentencing in the scandal which has hit Italy’s state-owned defence group Finmeccanica and its helicopter unit AgustaWestland and rattled New Delhi for a year. For the information he is willing to share, Haschke would be sentenced to serve a year and 10 months under house arrest or perform community service. The News Minute has not been able to reach Haschke, who has never publicly admitted to any guilt, for comment. He is a Swiss-resident Italian and U.S. national.

Among other officials and countries working on this case in Europe, TNM has been in touch with the official Indian representation in Rome and Milan over the past few months. The standard response is that all interaction with journalists on this is through the Raksha Mantrayala (Defence Ministry).

S. P. TyagiIt may be recalled that the former Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF) S. P. Tyagi and some 12 others have been named in an FIR registered by the CBI in April 2013 probing the bribes. It includes the Tyagi cousins — Sanjeev, alias Julie, Rajeev, alias Docsa, and Sandeep and European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke. Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, the top executives of Italian firm Finmeccanica and its United Kingdom-based subsidiary AgustaWestland are also facing trial in Italy for alleged corruption in the supply of 12 VVIP helicopters to India.

During the hearings Italian prosecutors produced a handwritten note by Orsi where he instructs his lawyers to speak to the then Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to talk to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The note was found in Orsi’s prison cell. Italian prosecutors have also found other notes which can be called bribery budget with names etc – numbers and initials that cannot appear on any business plan. It is fairly common for bribe givers and takers to work on parallel notes of this nature.

The crux of the matter is that Indian taxpayers were fooled, India was cheated, Italian courts have produced evidence that bribes were paid, Switzerland has extradited one of the middlemen, and we are being led to believe that India is working furiously to find the guilty. The contract has been cancelled but we have failed to retrieve a bank guaranty and have been forced into arbitration by AgustaWestland.

Was Sinha in the Vatican, Milan and Busto Arsizio? What is going on? – The News Minute, 21 April 2014

UK Home Secretary Theresa May & UK Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Vatican Conference in Rome

Vatican asked India for a religious undertaking: India refused says CBI Director – The News Minute

The Vatican had asked India to sign an undertaking that they could work with missionaries and other religious groups and NGOs in India to combat human trafficking. “We are a secular country and we turned down this request,” Ranjit Sinha, Director CBI told The News Minute today. “This was also conveyed to the Vatican through appropriate channels including the MEA,” India’s top sleuth said.

The News Minute which this morning broke the story about the Vatican-sponsored meeting of law enforcement agencies from some 20 countries had also learnt that such an undertaking was sought from the Government of India at the April 8-10 meeting at the Vatican. While it was not a pre-condition to participating in the meeting, pressure was exercised on India to concede. Other countries present at the by-invitation-only conference signed on to the deal.

Vincent Nichols & Boy  ChoristerSinha also told The News Minute that inputs for the meeting were provided by the Interpol and the office of the London Metropolitan Police as it was their initiative. However, Vatican Radio and news sources accessed by TNM clearly state that the initiative was the brainchild of the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales.

Sinha was unclear about the exact roles and responsibilities of Vatican, London Met Police and Interpol, but this document dated March 11, 2014 clearly states the meeting was organized by the Vatican. Read: Head of London’s Met police at Vatican trafficking conference.

If Vatican’s request had been acceded to, religious groups from Europe and UK would have access to over 220 districts to conduct what the documents say includes “vulnerability mapping.” (emphasis added)

On the AgustaWestland case in which Haschke, the critical middleman wants to turn approver; the hearings were slated in Busto Arsizio in Northern Italy on April 11. When asked about this, Sinha said “everything was going on well.” Pressed to elaborate, he said the Indian ambassador to Rome was in the complete know of things. – The News Minute, 21 April 2014

» Chitra Subramaniam Duella is a journalist and one of India’s best known media personalities. She is famous for her investigation of the Bofors-India Howitzer deal (Bofors Scandal) which is widely believed to have contributed to the electoral defeat of former prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.

5 Responses

  1. Reg. “BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that Rs 120 lakh crore of the country has been kept in foreign banks by few individuals and if the BJP is voted to power, it would bring back all these amounts from foreign banks.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Swamy wrote to the President demanding an inquiry by the Central Vigilance Commission and probe by CBI into the alleged involvement of Robert Vadra in a major DLF land deal in the national capital.

    Swamy alleged that Vadra used his political influence to get a 23-acre property worth more than Rs 20,000 crore near Rashtrapati Bhavan allotted to DLF for just Rs 65 crore. DLF is proposing to develop high-end apartments, since its has secured permission for a housing complex.”

    With all my qualification and experience and ‘original work & thinking on various techno commercial religious issues’ I am unable to make even one rupee! And people talk about Lakhs and Crores and Lakh Crores just like that! Probably, people are easily replacing the term old ‘Paisa’ by the term ‘one thousand Rupees’! With the retirement benefit of 3lakhs or so -out of which I had to pay outstandings of nearly 1.5 lakhs-unable to run the family with the normal interest, faced with the necessity to raise sufficient money by lending for a little higher interest rate, I had lost that capital too! Not only that, in order to manage the family, in the same way, once again, I had lost lakhs, given to me by my son! While in service, I was paying regular income tax. Now, indirectly in every purchase and service, I continue to pay the Government! The Government are unconcerned with my/our plight; we do not get any pension; nor any medical benefits! I am dependent on my children alone! The raw labour is in the range of Rs.500, so called skilled technician is 1,000; vegetables are above 50 to 100 per kg; edible oils above 200 per liter; no one is available to repair cheppels or dresses; at our age with the bitter experience of failed returns how can we take risks in stock broking? All successive and future Finance Ministers, Presidents, IAS and IAAS officers talk high profile languages, prosperities, India as a super Power and what not!
    An unkown UdhayKumar dares to question the wisdom of Nuclear Power generation and hold up generation for over an year! The Malaysian Aircraft has been ‘Missing’; All our media and readers -billions of man hours have been wasted commenting on all these!

    The gurus of all religions, except Hinduism, present big Profiles, control politics and try to convert the world population as if for that act alone ‘Their God’ would give them an Exalted place!! The pity is that from within India, our own political, social leaders and shameless officials also fall at the feet of the gurus of those religions. My heart breaks, when I see the poor, very poor Hindus in the festivals and having that immense and unquestioned faith in GOD. I see GOD and India only there; all others are commercial / business deals!!

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  2. Has Ranjit Sinha become a foot soldier for the Gospel?

    Allowing Catholic priests access to trafficked children is like asking the fox to look after the chickens!

    There are cases where Indian Christian priests have themselves been trafficking children to the US and Europe. It is a very lucrative business.

    The Catholic Church has always targeted vulnerable children as they are easily indoctrinated and sexually exploited.

    And Ranjit Sinha thinks that the CBI should become the nodal agency to finance these Christian NGOs!

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  3. Pictet & Cie Bank, Geneva, Switzerland

    This editor has always maintained that Sonia-G kept her dollar stash in the Vatican Bank (IOR). Now Dr Swamy has confirmed that she did indeed have an anonymous numbered account. She has had to move the funds to Switzerland because Pope Francis is attempting to clean up the notoriously crooked IOR-Vatican Bank and no longer allows anonymous numbered accounts.

    The Pictet Bank in Zurich, where Rahul also has an account, is one Swiss bank with a very, very dubious reputation!

    See Black money: Indians have stashed over $500bn in banks abroad, says CBI – TOI

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  4. Corruption is an international culture which is practiced by almost all countries and probably all companies/religions/societies/organisations/governments with very few exceptions. The only difference is that in rare cases they get exposed and highlighted.

    Many in authority will condemn it and those in power give assurances and promises of action. But then these assurances/promises are just like the oath taken in the name of the Almighty when taking an elected/service/judicial post or professional membership as rarely anyone comply as there is full confidence that there will not be any punishment if the requirements are not complied with. Those in mortal world can be bribed and influenced whereas the Almighty may be ‘bribed’ with prayers and donations or as some say ‘Who has seen the Almighty?’ Only to-day matters.

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  5. IOR--Vatican Bank--inside Vatican City

    Sonia-G has three foreign bank accounts, withdrew US$ 10 billion recently from Vatican Bank: Subramanian Swamy – Niti Central Staff – NIti Central – 19 April 2014

    BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi of possessing three secret foreign bank accounts and that she has recently withdrawn $10 billion from a bank based in Vatican. The move comes days after Swamy accused Sonia’s son-in-law Robert Vadra of involvement in a land deal in Delhi.

    Swamy was in Guwahati on Friday campaigning for the BJP where he made such revelation while addressing a Press conference.

    “Sonia Gandhi has three accounts in foreign banks and her total amounts in these three secret bank accounts are 1.5 lakh crore. Recently she had withdrawn $10 billion from a Vatican-based bank,” said Swamy.

    As per a report published in Hindustan Times, Swamy said that Sonia withdrew the amount from a Vatican bank after the new Pope declared that account must disclose the name of the holder. Swamy said the three banks in which Sonia Gandhi allegedly has accounts are one in Vatican, Sarasin Bank in Basel in Switzerland and Pictet Bank in Zurich.

    He said that Rs 120 lakh crore of the country has been kept in foreign banks by few individuals and if the BJP is voted to power, it would bring back all these amounts from foreign banks.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Swamy wrote to the President demanding an inquiry by the Central Vigilance Commission and probe by CBI into the alleged involvement of Robert Vadra in a major DLF land deal in the national capital.

    Swamy alleged that Vadra used his political influence to get a 23-acre property worth more than Rs 20,000 crore near Rashtrapati Bhavan allotted to DLF for just Rs 65 crore. DLF is proposing to develop high-end apartments, since its has secured permission for a housing complex.

    ‘It is obvious that without political influence this change in land use breaching national security and providing windfall profits would not have been possible,’ Swamy said in his letter to the President.

    Swamy said in some companies floated by Vadra in recent times, “DLF executive Amit Mehta was the director.” In light of the allegations, Swamy appealed, “Please take necessary steps including referring this letter to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner for a probe and subsequent CBI investigation.”

    According to Swamy, Vadra floated six companies in June-August 2012. “During this period, UPA Government had allotted Delhi’s most prime property to DLF group,” he alleged. Vadra is the managing director of all the newly-floated six companies.

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