ON A CLOUDLESS DAY in March 2012, an Audi sped along the highway connecting Milan and Lugano. Its two occupants, the 68-year-old Italian-American businessman Guido Ralph Haschke and his friend and business partner Carlo Gerosa, were scared. The Italian police had been zeroing in on them in its investigation of bribery allegations in the Indian government’s 2010 purchase of 12 helicopters—worth Rs 3,727 crore—from AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of the state-controlled defence company Finmeccanica, now called Leonardo.
“Julie seemed too agitated,” Haschke told Gerosa, referring to Sanjeev Tyagi, a cousin of the former air chief marshal SP Tyagi, who would later be indicted in the AgustaWestland case. “In any case, Gautam has a lot more experience,” Gerosa replied. Gautam Khaitan, a Delhi-based lawyer, would soon become the focus of the investigation. “Gautam is your lawyer,” Gerosa added, “that counts for something and then, in any case, there is no proof of the bank transactions nailing them.” The conversation, which was secretly recorded by the Italian police, indicated that Haschke and Gerosa had helped route payments from AgustaWestland, through a string of bogus consultancy contracts, to senior members of the Indian government and armed forces in order to influence the procurement of the helicopters.