Chopper scam: CBI grills Tyagi cousins

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 06, 2013 10:16 hrs

New Delhi:  The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday questioned the kin of former Air chief SP Tyagi in connection with the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore VVIP helicopter deal.

CBI sources said Julie and Docsa Tyagi have been quizzed on their alleged association with European middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschkhe who have been accused by the Italian investigators for payment of illegal gratification to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.

The sources said agency has already questioned executives of Indian arms of Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech - companies through which alleged bribe was routed from Mauritius and Tunisia in the garb of payments for engineering contracts.

In his probe report, the Italian prosecutor had said that Gerosa and Haschkhe had close contacts with former Air Chief's family, particularly his three cousins - Julie, Docsa and Sandeep.

It had claimed that Haschkhe and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, managed to change the tender details, modifying the 'operational ceiling' from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet altitude, thus making AgustaWestland eligible to take part in the tender process.

The report also said that the duo managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine, thus facilitating AgustaWestland helicopters, the only ones which had three engines, swinging the deal in its favour.

The CEOs of the two Italian companies, arrested by local authorities, also paid the middlemen through a consultancy contract between AgustaWestland and Gordian Services Sarl an amount of 400,000 Euros (about Rs 2.8 crore) of which 100,000 Euros (Rs 72 lakh) were paid cash to the Tyagi brothers (Julie, Docsa and Sandeep), the report said.

The former Air Chief and his three cousins have denied the allegations.

According to sources, retired Air chief Marshal Tyagi will be interrogated on Thursday.

But the CBI, assigned to investigate the deal last month, has indicated that early enquiries have furnished evidence against the former air force chief and his three cousins.

House panel to question air chief

In related developments, the Parliament's standing committee on defence, headed by Congress member Raj Babbar, has decided to question Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, the Air Force chief, over the helicopter purchase controversy. The panel is scheduled to meet tomorrow.

A source said: "The government was aware of the scam and some Opposition members had written to the defence minister. But the issue was never discussed by the committee. Most of the members want to question the air chief marshal about the deal."

One reason the panel members, dominated by the ruling coalition, are keen to know the facts was, Congress sources said, that the scam took place when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was in power.

Defence procurement policy to be changed: Antony

Meanwhile,the government today announced it would change its defence procurement policy, which will be unveiled in a few months.

"Within a few months we are going to change the defence procurement procedure again," Defence Minister A K Antony told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

The defence procurement policy was revised as recently as 2011.

The Minister was replying to questions on the allegations of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore in the Rs 3,600 crore deal to procure 12 VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland.

Antony said the government has to import defence equipment because the Services require the most modern equipment to meet their operational necessity.

"Because of the operational necessity of the Services, on the request that they need the most modern equipment to meet the operational necessity, government moves to import any high value equipment from foreign sources," Antony said.

Dubbing indigenisation as the "ultimate solution to the scourge of corruption", Antony said the government would give "more priority to indigenisation so that Indian public sector and private sector can play a major role in producing state-of-the-art equipment for the Indian forces."

Referring to the CBI investigation in the VVIP chopper deal, Antony said it would be early to opine on the extent to which this case was likely to affect other defence deals in the pipeline.

Antony said India had also taken up with Britain the issue of alleged involvement of a British consultant in the deal and the fact that the contract had been signed with M/s AgustaWestland, UK.

"The UK side informed the Ministry of External Affairs that they had not launched any investigation and were awaiting the results of the Italian investigation in order to ascertain whether any further action needs to be taken," he said.

The minister said AgustaWestland, UK has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing on their part in the contract for the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters.

Antony said the procurement of the choppers was completed in accordance with the established procurement procedure in a transparent manner with all stages being followed meticulously.

"Three helicopters, delivered by the vendor, have so far been accepted after completion of Joint Receipt Inspection," he said.

Antony said the Ministry of Defence had taken prompt action to seek factual information from authorities concerned after reports of alleged kickbacks in the deal appeared in a section of the media.

"However, since no concrete information to substantiate the allegations was forthcoming, no formal inquiry was then ordered," he said.

Antony said after the reports of the arrest of Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi, who was earlier the Chief Executive Officer of AgustaWestland, appeared the Defence Ministry ordered a CBI inquiry into the matter.

"The CBI, after a visit of its team to Italy and on further examination of the documents available, has registered a Preliminary Enquiry on February 25, 2013 in this matter against 11 persons including five Indians and four firms which include two Indian firms," he said.

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