CBI: File shows Ex-IAF chief Tyagi changed tech specifications

NEW DELHI (TIP): The CBI has obtained “crucial evidence” against Air Chief Marshal (retd) S P Tyagi after getting hold of the file in which the former IAF chief had given “approval” in writing for changing technical specifications of the VVIP choppers that allowed AgustaWestland’s AW-101 helicopters to re-enter the competition and ultimately bag the Rs 3,546 crore contract. CBI sources said this signed document, which approved the reduction in the operational flying ceiling of the VVIP helicopters from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet, constitutes “crucial evidence” in the case. Sources said Tyagi had given his first approval on March 8, 2005, close to three months after he became IAF chief. His cousins were by then already in talks with the middlemen engaged by the helicopter manufacturer. “After Tyagi took over as IAF chief, the plan got a boost,” said a source. “This document looks like the first written communication on part of an IAF official to reduce the service ceiling of choppers from 18,000 feet to 15,000. Before this date, IAF was always against the idea of changing the specifications of choppers due to security reasons,” the source added.

The CBI is “analyzing” all documents obtained from the defence ministry and elsewhere, starting from the initial bids to the final order to supply the 12 AW-101 helicopters, to trace the entire conspiracy behind the bribery scandal. The agency will prepare detailed questionnaires for all the 13 accused named in the FIR on the basis of these documents. “Their questioning will begin within a few days,” said the source.

The CBI is also investigating the “whole chain of events”, including before Tyagi became the IAF chief, because his cousins Julie, Sandeep and Docsa were in regular touch with middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke even in 2004. “There is also a payment which came to India from these middlemen in 2004… it is suspicious and we are probing if it is connected to S P Tyagi directly,” said the source.

The CBI on Wednesday had filed an FIR against Tyagi, his three cousins, the brother of former Union minister Santosh Bagrodia Satish Bagrodia, European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, among others, apart from AgustaWestland, Finmeccanica, IDS Infotech, Aeromatrix and two other companies. In its FIR, CBI alleged that Tyagi and “with his approval” the IAF “conceded to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6000 meters to 4500 meters (18,000 feet to 15,000 feet) as mandatory to which it was opposing vehemently on the grounds of security constraints and other related reasons earlier”. The agency alleged that the reduction in service ceiling – maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally – allowed the helicopters of the UKbased AgustaWestland to enter the fray. The AW-101 choppers could not even qualify for submission of bids as per the initial technical requirements drawn up by the IAF.

Meanwhile, AgustaWestland has got an extension of seven days from defence ministry to explain its links with the software companies that were allegedly used to pay kickbacks in the helicopter deal. The ministry had asked the firm last week to provide details about its transactions with Tunisia and Indiabased firms IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix.

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