AugustaWestland deal: ED registers money laundering case against ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi

In a significant development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday registered a money laundering case against former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi who is one of several accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal bribery case.

Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava

Panaji: In a significant development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday registered a money laundering case against former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi who is one of several accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal bribery case.

As per reports, the ED has registered a similar case against others accused in the case.

The former Air Chief has been accused of reducing the height of the VVIP helicopters so that AgustaWestland is included in the bids.

Importantly, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team today questioned Goa Governor BV Wanchoo in connection with its ongoing probe into the allegations of bribery in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland.

CBI sleuths questioned the Goa Governor for his role as SPG chief in reducing flying height (the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres – the changes which helped AgustaWestland qualify for the contract.

The apex probe agency had earlier quizzed West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan as a “witness” in connection with the case.

About a week ago, a joint director from the probe agency in Delhi reportedly recorded the West Bengal Governor’s statement in Kolkata.

The deal signed in 2010 relates to sale of 12 helicopters to India by the Anglo-Indian defence manufacturer.

Narayanan, who was National Security Adviser to Prime Minister in 2005, was in the team that dealt with purchase procedures and tendering process of the choppers to be bought for VVIPs.

Narayanan reportedly answered questions and recorded statements relating to a 2005 meeting in which a decision was taken to reduce “service ceiling” (or the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres. The changes allegedly ensured that AgustaWestland qualified for the contract.

Narayanan is among the Governors that the new NDA government wants to replace because they were appointed by the previous UPA regime.

Highly-placed sources said the agency has informed the Law Ministry that there was no bar on examining serving governors as witnesses.
The examination of the two constitutional functionaries is important as Wanchoo and Narayanan had participated in the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications which led to 12-Helicopter contract being clinched by AgustaWestland, the CBI said.

In its reply to the Law Ministry, the CBI said it wanted to record the statements of Narayanan, who was the then National Security Adviser, and Wanchoo, who was the then head of elite Special Protection Group (SPG) guarding the Prime Minister.

The deal in which allegations of Rs 360-crore bribe were levelled has been scrapped by the government last year. CBI claims the parameters regarding the height at which the helicopters can fly as also the flight evaluation were changed in a manner that enabled AgustaWestland to clinch the deal vis-a-vis its competitor Sikorsky.

CBI had registered a case against former IAF chief SP Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case of alleged bribery. The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he had reduced the height of the VVIP helicopters so that AgustaWestland is included in the bids.

However, the decision was taken in consultation with the Special Protection Group and other top officials of the Prime Minister`s Office but the agency did not get permission to question either Narayanan or Wanchoo.

It alleged reduction of service ceiling-maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally-allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to get into the fray as, otherwise its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

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