AgustaWestland chopper deal scam: CBI grills ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi, Gautam Khaitan
AgustaWestland's Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force was scrapped by the then UPA government.
New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday questioned former IAF chief SP Tyagi for the third day and examined lawyer Gautam Khaitan for the first time over alleged corruption in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.
CBI sources said both arrived at the agency headquarters this morning to appear before the investigation team.
While Tyagi is being questioned for the third consecutive day today, Khaitan is appearing for the first time after Milan Court of Appeals order in Italy which claimed bribes were paid to get the lucrative deal.
Khaitan, who is an advocate and a former Board member of company Aeromatrix which was allegedly used to route bribe amount, is named in the CBI FIR an one of the accused.
The focus of the questioning is his alleged links with Italian middlemen -- Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschkhe, CBI sources said.
Tyagi, who retired in 2007, was questioned on Monday for 10 hours and for nine hours on Tuesday by the CBI. The investigating agency had issued him summons on Friday.
Tyagi has been named in the FIR in the chopper deal along with 13 others including his brothers -- Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep -- and European middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.
The CBI had on Tuesday quizzed Tyagi on the four firms he and his wife set up after he retired.
Tyagi told the CBI that he and his wife Vandana had established four companies -- Vanshi, Anurash, Shavan and Meghanshu -- in 2011 and 2012, informed sources said.
All the companies, reportedly based in Noida, are reportedly classified as non-government companies and registered with the Registrar of Companies in Delhi and Noida, a source with knowledge of the interrogation said.
The allegation against the former IAF chief is that he had reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) so that AgustaWestland was included in the bids.
Tyagi maintains the decision was reportedly taken in consultation with officials of the Special Protection Group (SPG) and the Prime Minister's Office. Twelve helicopters were to be bought by India.
The CBI says the reduction of the service ceiling, which is the maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally, allowed the Britain-based firm to get into the fray. Otherwise its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.
The chopper deal resurfaced after an Italian court last month referred to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh among others in connection with the chopper deal but gave no details of any wrongdoing by the two leaders.
The CBI, which has received a copy of the Milan court order, has now prepared a fresh set of questions for Tyagi, who has denied the bribery allegations.
The Milan court has also given details of how alleged bribes were paid by AgustaWestland's parent company Finmeccanica as well as AgustaWestland to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch the deal.
The order mentions Tyagi's name in several places.
The investigating agency had quizzed former IAF deputy chief JS Gujral on Saturday.
Both Tyagi and Gujral were questioned in 2013 but the fresh round of questioning was necessitated after the recent order of the Italian court.
AgustaWestland's Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force was scrapped by the then UPA government over charges of paying kickbacks to Indian agents.
In January 2013, India cancelled the deal and the CBI was assigned to investigate the matter.
The CBI on March 13, 2013 registered a first information report against Tyagi and others in the case.
Firms Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd (India) and Aeromatrix India were also booked as accused in the case.