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Bribes necessary for doing business: Berlusconi

LONDON: Defending Finmeccanica SpA’s jailed ex-chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi, Italy’s three-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday said bribes are a necessary part of doing business globally.

“Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations,” Berlusconi said in a televised interview.

“These are not crimes. We’re talking about paying a commission to someone in that country. Why, because those are the rules in that country,” the former premier was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

In February 2010, India had inked the deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for IAF’s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, PM and other VVIPs.

The deal came under the scanner of Italian agencies after allegations of kickback given in India surfaced.

The agencies arrested Orsi on Tuesday as part of their probe related to international corruption.

It is alleged that Orsi, who was heading the helicopter unit, when the deal was struck, was involved in the bribery.

Around 50 million euros (Rs 362 crore approximately), about 10 per cent of the deal, were alleged to have been given as bribes to ensure that the company won the contract.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted Berlusconi as saying that probes by Italian prosecutors into contracts Italian firms sign abroad were a form of “economic suicide”.

“Everyone knows that as well as the tenders, agreements between governments are also involved,” Mr. Berlusconi said.

He added: “The fact that there is the risk of magistrates intervening I consider to be economic suicide”. — PTI






Italian helicopter firm had kept aside Rs 217 cr for bribe: Report

NEW DELHI: Italy's state-controlled AgustaWestland had allegedly kept aside Rs 217 crore as part of "corrupt activity" to bag India's Rs 3,600-crore deal and its choppers became eligible only after certain required parameters were altered in the tender document.

According to a report filed by Italian investigators in an Italian court, the middlemen had agreed for a 7.5 per cent commission in the Rs 3,600-crore for 12 VVIP helicopters. Finally, the kickbacks were to the tune of about Rs 362 crore.

The payment of bribes through contracts between firms registered in Tunisia and India, was "still underway" when the scam was unearthed.

The report said CEO of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini had paid 30 million Euros (Rs 217 crore) to one of the main middlemen Christian Michel. "Orsi and Spagnolin, moreover, paid Micheal Christian a total amount of about Euros 30 million, partly destined to support the corruptive activity meant to bag the order and partly to implement the contract," the document said.

The arrested CEOs of the two companies had also "paid Guido Ralph Hashcke and Carlo Gerosa (two other alleged middlemen), through a consultancy contract between AW spa and Gordian Services Sarl an amount of 400,000 Euros (about Rs 2.8 crore), of which 100,000 Euros (Rs 72 lakh) were paid cash to the Tyagi brothers (Julie, Docsa and Sandeep."

The report suggests that the middlemen had close contacts with the family of former IAF Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, particularly his three cousins.

One middlemen named 'ADR' has claimed in his interrogation that the first meeting of one of the middlemen Zappa with Tyagi happened at the time when the tender was in the Request for Information (RFI) phase.

"Already in the Zappa-ACM Tyagi meeting, one of the topics was the one of the 18,000 feet altitude, which was practically excluding all the competitors, except for the French ones, Eurocopter which anyway did not have a VIP model," ADR said as per the report.

"When the tender was issued, I informed Orsi or Lunardi that the 18,000 feet limit had been lowered. The operational ceiling had been set at 15,000 feet. This had reopened the race for Agusta along with the Russians and the Americans," he added.

The middleman reportedly claimed he had paid around Rs 72 lakhs to the three cousins of ACM Tyagi.

"I remitted the total amount of 1,00,000 euros (Rs 72 lakhs). There was a previous agreement between us and the Indians to share the compensations for the consultancies at 50 per cent.

"In reality, we shared only the first two portions. The other 200.000 euros were kept by me and GEROSA also on the basis of the real expenses we faced for our travels to India," he said.

The middleman alleged that Tyagi used to brief them about the developments in the tender during their meetings, according to the report of the Italian investigators.

The report said "Haschke and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, in turn through their cousin ACM S P Tyagi, managed first to change the tender details, in a way to favour, modifying the 'operational ceiling' from 18,000 to 15,000 feet of altitude, thus allowing AgustaWestland spa (which otherwise could not have even submitted an offer) to take part in the tender."

"They managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine, thus facilitating AgustaWestland helicopters, the only ones which had three engines. In this way they managed to get the contract to AgustaWestland," it alleged.

After the arrest of Orsi and Spagnolini in Italy, India has put on hold the delivery of three AW-101 choppers to be delivered in March along with the remaining six.

The payments for the choppers has also been stopped and defence ministry has stated that because of the integrity pact, it can get back all the money paid by it for the deal. — PTI






'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius 'shoots' girlfriend dead, arrested

JOHANNESBURG: South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner" for his racing prosthetics, was charged on Thursday with murdering his girlfriend at his home in Pretoria.

The police said they had opened a murder case after a 30-year-old woman was found shot dead at the scene in the upmarket Silverlakes gated community on the outskirts of the Capital.

Police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said a 9 mm pistol had been found at the scene and a 26-year-old man was taken into custody. In South Africa police do not identify suspects until they are charged in court.

"There are witnesses and they have been interviewed this morning. We are talking about neighbours and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters outside the residential complex in Pretoria.

"At this stage he is on his way to a district surgeon for medical examination and will be appearing at the Pretoria Magistrate Court at 2 pm this afternoon."

Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said Pistorius was believed to have shot his girlfriend, a model, in the head and arm, although the circumstances were unclear. The radio had said before the murder charge that he might have mistaken her for a burglar.

Reeva Steenkamp was reported to have been dating Pistorius for a year. In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday Independent she described him as having "impeccable" taste.

"His gifts are always thoughtful," she was quoted as saying. Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to celebrating Valentine's Day on Thursday with him.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.

"We are all devastated. Her family is in shock," Steenkamp's agent, Sarita Tomlinson, told Reuters, in tears over the incident, which happened in the early hours of the morning.

"They did have a good relationship," she said. "Nobody actually knows what happened."


Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fibre prosthetic blades after he was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400 metre semifinals in London 2012.

In last year's Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 metres in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades, though he was quick to express his regret for the comments.

South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders.

In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.

Pistorius's lavish home is in the heart of a large estate surrounded by a three-metre-high stone wall topped by an electric wire fence.

"It is difficult to imagine an intruder entering this community, but we live in a country where intruders can get in wherever they want to," said one Silverlakes resident, who did not want to be named.

"Oscar is a good guy, an upstanding neighbour, and if he is innocent I feel for this guy deeply," he said.

Pistorius did not answer his mobile phone on Thursday. His South African agent told Reuters he had not spoken to Pistorius but his lawyers were with him.

He is sponsored by British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley, sports apparel maker Nike and French designer Thierry Mugler. "We are shocked by this terrible, tragic news. We await the outcome of the South African police investigation," a BT spokeswoman said before Pistorius was charged.

A Nike spokesman in London said before hearing of the murder charge that the company was "saddened by the news, but we have no further comment to make at this stage". — Reuters






Nasheed free to leave Indian embassy, says Maldives govt

MALE: The former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed can leave the Indian embassy where he has taken refuge because the warrant for his arrest has expired, the government said on Thursday.

Opposition leader Nasheed has said he would remain at the Indian High Commission (embassy) until authorities assure him that he will not be arrested and will be free to campaign for presidential elections due in September.

"Nasheed is a free man and he can walk out of the embassy," government spokesman Masood Imad told AFP. "Police will not arrest him because the arrest warrant expired last night."

Imad said police told courts that they could not reach Nasheed, who took shelter at the embassy compound to evade an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate after he failed to turn up at his trial on Sunday.

"The court has not fixed a date for the next hearing and there is no threat of arrest," Imad said. "He (Nasheed) has nothing to fear. He can come out of the embassy."

Armed police outside the diplomatic compound had withdrawn, Imad said.

There was no immediate comment from Nasheed or his Maldivian Democratic Party, which considers his trial on charges of abuse of power to be politically motivated. A conviction would prevent him from holding public office.

The stand-off comes amid political turbulence in the upmarket holiday destination a year after Nasheed, the nation's first freely elected leader, was ousted by violent protests and a mutiny by police and security forces.

His spokeswoman, Mariya Didi, told AFP earlier in the day that he wanted India to take a lead in bringing an end to the political crisis in the Indian Ocean atoll nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

New Delhi said on Wednesday that it was "necessary that the presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance", in comments seen as tacitly backing Nasheed. — AFP






TN seeks exemption from food Bill

Chennai: Stating that Tamil Nadu had successfully enforced the Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS), the State government on Wednesday reiterated its demand that TN be exempted from implementing the Food Security Bill. The Central bill for food security is replete with confusion and inaccuracy, Tamil Nadu said.

At a meeting held in the capital to discuss the bill, Tamil Nadu Food Minister R Kamaraj recalled Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s observation: “In a federal structure like ours, where the States are in close and direct contact with the people, the choice of designing and implementing popular welfare schemes is at best left to the States.” He said this view had been endorsed by the Standing Committee on the Food Security Bill as well.  Besides, observations in several places are in support of the stand taken by the Tamil Nadu government.

“The committee has recommended five kg of food grains per person uniformly for both priority and general categories. In Tamil Nadu, 12 kg is supplied per person. Most of the single-person households comprise widows and women.  In the proposed system, they would be entitled only to five kg per month,” the Minister said and insisted that the minimum supply be 10 kg.

Further, the present allotment of 35 kg per family for AAY (Antyodana Anna Yojana scheme) families irrespective of number of family members should continue.Back




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