New Delhi: A team of the country’s premier probe agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has returned empty handed from Italy, now faces an uphill task in unraveling the truth related to the VVIP choppers deal.
Although, the CBI has on Monday registered a preliminary enquiry against 11 people, including former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, and four companies in the Rs 3,600-crore deal for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland, it is yet to obtain crucial documents from the Italian government to proceed in the case.
Though the Italians have reportedly provided some documents to the CBI team, the nature of the documents procured from Italy is still unclear.
Italy had earlier refused to part with any evidence. Any document procured from outside has to be done through Letters Rogatory in order for it to be admissible in an Indian Court.
However, the CBI has filed its PE on basis of documents received from Italy, which also names Sanjeev alias `Julie` Tyagi, Docsa Tyagi, Sandeep Tyagi- cousins of former IAF chief SP Tyagi, advocate Gautam Khaitan, formerly associated with Aeromatrix, and the company`s CEO Praveen Bakshi. According to the Italian probe report, Khaitan and Bakshi were the two individuals who were used to route money into India. CBI will be probing their role as well.
Others named in the inquiry include Giuseppe Orsi, the former CEO of Italian defence major Finmeccanica, Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland - a Britain-based subsidiary of Finmeccanica - and alleged middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke, Karlo Valentino, Ferdinando Gerosa, and Christian Michel.
The firms named are Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd. (India) and Aeromatrix India.
A CBI and Defence Ministry team went to Italy last week to collect documents concerning alleged kickbacks to clinch the deal.
Meanwhile, Tyagi has categorically denied any involvement in influencing the VVIP helicopters deal in favour of AgustaWestland. Sanjeev Tyagi had also termed allegations of involvement of his family in the kickbacks as "hundred percent wrong and baseless".
Bakshi, too, has rubbished claims that the firm had anything to do with the alleged kickbacks in the deal.
The matter came to light after Italian agencies arrested Orsi for suspected corruption to seal the deal.
The government February 15 initiated action for cancellation of the contract for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs and issued a formal show cause notice to AgustaWestland seeking cancellation of contract. Two days earlier, it put on hold further payments to the company.
Sources said AgustaWestland, in its reply to the government`s notice, stated that the allegations of bribery were based on unsubstantiated news reports and investigations in Italy were at a pre-trial stage.
The company also said that procedures had been followed and suspension of payment to it was not justified.
The kickbacks controversy erupted at a time the UPA government was bracing up for the Budget Session of Parliament.
The Opposition has already signaled it will raise the issue forcefully during the session.
The government has said it has nothing to hide and was open to any suggestion for a probe into the deal.
Defence Ministry officials said they would decide on asking more questions to AgustaWestland after looking at the material gathered by its senior official who went to Italy and the CBI report.
"If necessary we will ask further questions and confront them with facts we have," a ministry official said.
The contract for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters was signed in 2010.
With IANS inputs