Although the Defence Ministry on Wednesday terminated the VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland, the Central Bureau of Investigation is yet to sum up the probe into allegations of payoffs by the company to clinch the deal. While the agency claims to have obtained most of the documents pertaining to the deal, no arrests in the case have been made so far.
“Termination of the contract on grounds of integrity clause does not impact our case in any way. A probe into the allegations of irregularities and payoffs by the supplier company is under way and we will file the final report once all aspects are examined and the relevant documents scrutinised. It is on the basis of the evidence so gathered that we will take a final decision on whether we have enough grounds to arrest of any of the suspects,” said a senior CBI official.
The agency had in February 2013 instituted a preliminary enquiry against the former Indian Air Force chief, S.P. Tyagi, and his three cousins — Julie, Docsa and Sandeep Tyagi, besides nine others and six companies. A fortnight later, it was converted into a regular case accusing the suspects of corruption, conspiracy and cheating. The CBI alleged that AgustaWestland paid intermediaries to influence public servants to swing the deal for supply of 12 helicopters in its favour.
The companies named are Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS (Tunisia), Infotech Design System (Mauritius), IDS Infotech (Mohali) and Aeromatrix (Chandigarh).
According to the CBI, it was because the retired Air Chief Marshal had approved certain changes in the tender specifications which opened the doors for the Italian firm AgustaWestland to bid for the VVIP chopper deal. The agency alleged that it was during the tenure of the former IAF chief that reduction of the service ceiling of VVIP helicopters from 6,000 to 4,500 metres was approved despite persistent opposition by the IAF on security reasons. This gave an opportunity to AgustaWestland to bid.
Apart from the retired Air Chief, the agency has so far sought clarifications from Chief Executive Officer of Aeromatrix Info Solution Private Limited Praveen Bakshi; IDS Infotech Chairman Satish Bagrodia and its Managing Director Pratap K. Aggarwal; and advocate Gautam Khaitan.
The other accused, Giuseppe Orsi, former CEO of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica; and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of United Kingdom-based AgustaWestland, besides alleged middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke, Carlo Valentino Ferdinando Gerosa and Christian Michel, are yet to be questioned by the CBI.
“The Defence Ministry representatives are pursuing the matter in Italy to gather all evidence from the local authorities,” said another CBI official.
The CBI suspects that services of some middlemen were taken by the company in question and that huge sums of money were paid to some Indian nationals on the pretext of engineering contracts with the two India-based companies named in the case. Preliminary investigations suggested that Mr. Michel was purportedly paid € 30 million to ensure that the deal went in favour of AgustaWestland. However, the company has in the past denied any wrongdoing, refuting all charges.