A Central Bureau of Investigation team met Defence Ministry officials here on Thursday to collect details on the controversial VVIP helicopter deal that has again come into the limelight following the arrest of the then head of Italian firm AgustaWestland, with which a Rs. 3,600 crore contract for the supply of 12 AW-101 helicopters was struck three years ago.

It is learnt that the CBI was provided with some documents pertaining to the deal which would be studied to ascertain whether there were enough grounds to register a preliminary enquiry and initiate an informal probe. The Defence Ministry had earlier supplied newspaper cuttings to the CBI seeking investigations.

The CBI will now have to register a regular case in order to send a letter rogatory to the Italian authorities following the required legal procedure to obtain certified copies of their findings on the basis of which Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly paying bribes to intermediaries in India.

Letters rogatory might also be sent to the United Kingdom and Dubai for relevant documents.

It is alleged that Rs. 362 crore in bribe was paid, of which Rs. 140 crore went into the pockets of middlemen, to bag the VVIP helicopter deal.

During the preliminary enquiry, the CBI may examine people whose names have cropped up during the investigations by Italian agencies to find out if a prima facie case is made out against them.

“Since the prime charge is that intermediaries were involved in the deal and that bribes were paid, the focus would be to investigate the money trail. The Enforcement Directorate will have to be involved in examining the money laundering part. The entire process, starting from finalising of specifications in the tender, signing of the deal, pricing of helicopters and their procurement to payments will have to be scrutinised,” said an official.

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