There is “nothing new” for the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on irregularities in the acquisition of VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland, according to top agency officials.
“We have in fact gone far beyond CAG findings and all the aspects highlighted in the report have been investigated. The CAG report corroborates the conclusions we arrived at. Nevertheless, we have sought a copy of the report for reference,” said a senior CBI official.
The CBI had in February instituted a preliminary inquiry into the allegations of irregularities in procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland for Rs.3,726.96 crore.
The next month it was converted into a regular case naming retired Indian Air Force chief S. P. Tyagi and his three cousins besides nine others and six companies.
The agency suspects that bribes were paid through middlemen to influence public servants and the former IAF chief had facilitated the deal by approving reduction of the service ceiling of VVIP helicopters from 6,000 to 4,500 metres, a relaxation allowing AgustaWestland to bag the contract.
The agency has obtained all the documents pertaining to the deal through AgustaWestland’s parent firm, Italian company Finmeccanica.
“We are presently in the process of translating the papers which will form part of the evidence to be produced before the court,” said the official.
For its part, the CAG report has concluded that the acquisition process for choppers had to resort to several deviations from the laid down procedures.
“The AgustaWestland helicopter could not be evaluated in 2002 as it was certified to fly up to an altitude of 4,572 metre only as against the mandatory altitude requirement of 6,000 metres....the procurement process was closed in 2003 by the Defence Ministry since the Prime Minister’s Office had observed that the service qualitative requirements (SQRs) framed had resulted in a single vendor situation. Subsequently, SQRs were reframed in 2006 with an objective to broad-base the competition and to avoid a resultant single vendor situation.”