AgustaWestland Scam: In what comes as a major coup for the CBI, former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan , were arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 450 crores in the much reported Rs 3,565-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam involving the contract. The scam occurred in 2010 during the UPA 2 regime when a contract was signed with UK-based AgustaWestlandto purchase 12 AW101 helicopters choppers for flying VVIPs like the President, Prime Minister and others. In 2013 however, the deal was put on hold by the governmentafter Bruno Spagnolin, CEO of AgustaWestland and Guiseppe Orsi,chairman of its Italian parent companyFinmeccanica (currently Leonardo-Finmeccanica)were arrested on charges of bribing middlemen to secure the deal with IAF.
The CBI was once labelled as a ‘caged parrot’ by the Supreme Court. This action may well restore some of its glory, despite the lack of a full-time director at the moment. Tyagi, who is 71, retired from the Air Force in 2007. CBI sources stated that after four hours of intense questioning, the three men were arrested. These arrests mark the first ones since 22013, when the scam broke. In 2014, when the NDA government came to power, PM Narendra Modi had promised a new and transparent probe, and these arrests may get the government, struggling amidst demonetisation, some relief.
The Congress party remains antsy and aggressive. Sonia Gandhi’s name came up in investigations in Milan, along with the initials ‘AP’ who the opposition arties claim is Ahmed Patel Mrs. Gandhi’s closest aide. Conversations between the three middlemen — Carlos Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guildo Haschke-revealed these names and were admitted in a Milan Court.
Allegations have been afloat for some time now that SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev aka Julie Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan facilitated the deal and accepted kickbacks. Interestingly, Khaitan, a Delhi-based lawyer, was first arrested in 2014 for laundering the kickbacks part of the AgustaWestland deal.He is a former board member of the Aeromatrix company, a shell company said to have set up to launder the money, around Rs350 crores. Interestingly, while Khaitan admitted he accepted money from Gerosa and Haschke, deniedthat it was part of kickbacks to clinch the deal.
No comments have been made available from the arrested trio’s lawyers. The Congress, meanwhile, has alleged conspiracy and intimidation tactics on part of the government. The party has also alleged it is a move to divert attention over the parliament logjam and government incompetence. One thing is clear however: the deal could not have been pushed through without complicity from officials, bureaucrats and politicians. We are expected bigger heads to roll in the days to come. Tyagi’s bail plea is up for hearing on Monday