Chopper scam: CBI-MoD team to visit Italy

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 17, 2013 07:17 hrs

A team of investigators comprising officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Defence Ministry is leaving for Italy on Monday to probe into the alleged payment of kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore purchase deal of VVIP choppers by India from AugustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy's Finmeccanica.

There are allegations of kickbacks worth 50 million euros in the scam, according to media reports.

"MoD is deputing a senior Joint Secretary to Italy to gather as much evidence as possible relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 12 AW 101 VVIP helicopters for Indian Air Force. The Official, Shri AK Bal, will be leaving for Rome as early as on Monday," said the defence ministry in a communique.

Reports said from the CBI a DIG-level officer and a law officer would be on the team that is expected to meet the Italian prosecutors to acquire all the details related to the case.

The CBI decided to visit Italy after it reportedly failed to acquire some official information from the Defence Ministry in regard to the alleged kickbacks in the case, said reports on Saturday.

The Indian government has already ordered a CBI probe into the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers.

The bureau had received a letter from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe by it in the case along with the attachments of Indian and Italian press clippings, which according to the CBI is not sufficient to register a case.

CBI had also sought help of Indian Mission in Rome but it has failed to provide the bureau with any authenticated court documents, said reports.

Earlier in a statement, BJP National Spokesperson and MP Prakash Javadekar demanded "a time-bound court monitored CBI inquiry into the kickbacks in the purchase of 12 AW101 helicopters worth over Rs 3,500 crores. "

"The CBI inquiry will not yield any result in the UPA regime without monitoring by the Court. In other major scams like 2G scam, the Congress has ordered probe under public pressure but subsequently delayed the investigation. Only after Supreme Court suo motu started monitoring the 2G scam, it started yielding results otherwise it was a lame duck inquiry for 15 months," said BJP.

The government on Friday issued show cause notice to the AgustaWestland on bribery charges in the chopper deal.

The government has initiated action for cancellation of contract and the Integrity pact for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs.

The report by the investigators said that an alleged middleman for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland was seen touching the feet of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi.

The scandal allegedly took place during the tenure of Tyagi who headed the air force from 2004 to 2007.

Tyagi has denied the allegations and has said that he met one of the alleged AgustaWestland middlemen just once contrary to the charges of "six or seven" meetings.

The middleman Ralph Haschke has "confessed" that he met Tyagi six or seven times and once greeted him by touching his feet as a sign of respect, the Italian prosecutors have said.

The Italian inquiry has also found that in 2003, a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army allegedly demanded $5 million dollars to influence a contract for 197 light helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland.

Italian police arrested Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal.

Meanwhile, in an interview to CNN IBN channel SP Tyagi´s cousin Sanjeev Tyagi, whose name has been dragged in the defence scam, has trashed allegations outright.

Referred to as Julie Tyagi by Italian investigators, he told the channel that "allegations against him and his cousin SP Tyagi were baseless and had maligned the image of their families."

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