Copter deal: Ex-IAF chief evasive during CBI grilling

NEW DELHI (TIP): CBI sources said they would be filing an FIR in the VVIP helicopter scandal next week, even as they suggested that former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Shashi P Tyagi was evasive during his questioning.

The agency had also quizzed the former IAF chief on March 6 for several hours. Sources said Tyagi was ‘evasive’ in some of his replies. When confronted with the investigation reports filed in an Italian court and documents related to the contract, which clearly showed that specifications were changed to benefit AgustaWestland, the former IAF chief had no clear answers, sources said.

A senior official said, “We also have with us enough evidence to prove that kickbacks were paid. We will register the regular case next week”. During his questioning on Wednesday, CBI officials had asked Tyagi why he had changed the specifications, to which he did not have a satisfactory reply, sources said. He was also confronted with the statements of his cousins – Julie and Docsa Tyagi — that contradicted his version, said the source. The former IAF chief, who has denied allegations of all wrongdoings last month, refused to make any comment. Senior officials said CBI will name all the 11 people and four companies, mentioned in the preliminary enquiry (PE), in the FIR.

They include S P Tyagi, former Finmeccanica chairperson Giuseppe Orsi and four companies — two European firms, Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, and two Indian firms, Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech — and Julie Tyagi, Docsa Tyagi, Gautam Khaitan, CEO of Aeromatrix Praveen Bakshi, CEO of AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnolini, and middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel. The accused would be probed under prevention of corruption Act, criminal conspiracy and cheating. The agency sources said that some IAF and defence ministry officials would also be probed once the case is registered.

Khaitan was also questioned by the CBI on March 7. Agency sources said they will send Letters Rogatory (LRs) to Italy after registering the case to get all the documents from there and raids would be conducted next week. CBI has already got some documents from Italy. The agency managed to get documents related to Italian firms, mode of payments made by IAF and investigations carried by Italian police. The officer said, “The documents collected so far suggest that the contract was made in a manner that it favoured Agusta. The Italian investigation report has given a detailed account on the case.

The primary investigations have confirmed that offence was committed and bribe was paid.” It has been alleged that Haschkhe and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, had managed to change the tender details, modifying the ‘operational ceiling’ from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet altitude, and consequently making AgustaWestland eligible to take part in the tender process. The Italian investigator’s report also said that the duo managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with nonfunctional engine, facilitating AgustaWestland helicopters, the only ones which had three engines, and swung the deal in its favour. The deal came under the scanner after the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company, which is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for the helicopters, was arrested, prompting the government to order a CBI probe.

CEO of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested by Italian investigators in connection with the case. The CEOs had paid the middlemen through a consultancy contract between AgustaWestland and Gordian Services Sarl an amount of 400,000 euro (about Rs 2.8 crore) of which 100,000 euro (Rs 72 lakh) were paid cash to the Tyagi brothers — Julie, Docsa and Sandeep — the report said. The former IAF chief and his three cousins have denied the allegations.

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