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Indian govt names air chief in chopper deal case

Publication Date : 26-02-2013

 

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) yesterday registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) in the US$750 million deal AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, naming 11 people, including the former air chief Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi and his two cousins and the CEO of AgustaWestland as suspects.

The PE was registered after the CBI team, which returned from Italy on Friday, managed to get sufficient documents related to the deal.

According to CBI, the PE has been registered against Tyagi, five private persons including Tyagi brothers, the Italy-based company and its CEO, UK-based company and its CEO, three middlemen and two India-based private firms in the matter of procurement of 12AW 101 VVIP/VIP helicopters from the company.

In its PE, the agency alleged that middlemen had influenced the deal in favour of the UK-based company and AgustaWestland paid commission of several millions of euros to the middlemen.

“The two middlemen from their share of commission allegedly paid huge sums of money to several Indian nationals through Tunisia and Mauritius route in the garb of engineering contracts with two India-based companies,” the CBI claimed.

Two of the accused middlemen are directors in Indian private companies, in which one of them works as chief operating officer and allegedly had a role in channelising money for illegal purposes, the agency claimed.

The allegations are based on the documents received from the Italian authorities and some reports the CBI received from Italy. The documents revealed that more people could be behind the kickbacks.

However, CBI could not get the crucial documents related to the chain of payments and details of payments made to middlemen in India, sources said. “They did not part with crucial evidence related to the AgustaWestland deal....” they added.

“Only the investigation would reveal who else was involved in getting the alleged kickback of 20 million Euros as stated in the Italian investigation report...there must be more people as beneficiaries and who could have influenced such a big deal…the agency would see if there was any other evidence against Tyagi brothers other than Haschke’s statement,” sources said.

The Defence ministry is likely to send a fresh letter to AgustaWestland asking why the deal should not be cancelled as kickbacks were paid in the VVIP helicopters deal.

The letter would be sent in response to AgustaWestland’s letter in which it refuted the allegations of kickbacks. AgustaWestland claimed the allegations were baseless and had not been substantiated. It said the Italian investigations are at a ‘pre-trial phase’ and are yet to be "tested in court".

Orsi, former chairman of the Finmeccanica, was arrested by Italian agencies on 15 February on charges of paying bribe for the contract.
The investigation report by Italian prosecutor had claimed that Hashchke and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers and their cousin S P Tyagi, managed first to change the tender details bringing the "operational ceiling" from 18,000 to 15,000 feet of altitude, thus allowing AgustaWestland (which otherwise could not have even submitted an offer) to take part in the process.

The report also claimed that the duo managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine, thus swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland, the only one providing three engine helicopters. It alleged payments were made to Hashchke and Gerosa through a consultancy contract between AW and Gordian Services Sarl and an amount of 400,000 euros ($523,200).

 

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