New Delhi: In a major development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the alleged corruption in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper bribery scam and the loan default by liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
The CBI had earlier questioned former IAF chief SP Tyagi in connection with its probe into bribery charges in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.
As per CBI sources, Tyagi, who is accused of receiving kickbacks through middlemen from the Italian firm bidding to seal a deal with India regarding the supply of VVIP choppers, had reportedly visited Florence, Milan and Venice after retirement.
The CBI is examining the purpose of these trips and has questioned several others in connection with the case.
Besides, Tyagi, his cousins - Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep - are also under the CBI scanner in connection with the case. A Delhi-based lawyer, Gautam Khaitan, who allegedly played a key role in moving the bribe money, has also been examined in the case.
The Milan Court of Appeals - the equivalent of a High Court in India - has, in its recent order, given details of how alleged bribes were paid by helicopter-maker AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch the deal.
Importantly, Tyagi’s name finds mention in the court order at several points.
CBI had lodged a case against Tyagi and 12 others, including Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep, and European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke and Christian Michel.
The agency has alleged that Tyagi had reduced the service ceiling - the maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally - from 6,000 m to 4,500 m to purportedly let AgustaWestland be eligible for the bids, as its AW-101 helicopter was not eligible for submission of bids at the original ceiling.
Tyagi has, however, denied the allegations and has claimed that the decision to reduce the ceiling was taken by a group of senior officials. The decision was taken in consultation with the Special Protection Group (SPG) and other top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office, he has said.
Besides the AugustaWestland case, the SIT will also widen its probe against liquor baron Vijay Mallya and his defunct Kingfisher Airlines in connection with alleged loan default of Rs 900 crore.
The agency is investigating a loan default worth Rs 900 crore sanctioned by IDBI Bank to Mallya’s company despite the airline's negative credit ratings and net worth.