NEW DELHI --- In a fresh development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sought sanction to prosecute five officials of the central government for their alleged role in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case after fresh leads emerged.
Highly placed sources told IANS on Monday, "The CBI has sought the permission to prosecute four officials from the defence ministry while one is a senior officer." The source said that the CBI is waiting for the prosecution from the government to proceed further in the case. The source further claimed that the role of these officials came to the fore during the probe of the agency in the VVIP chopper deal case.
He said that the agency has got the leads during the investigation about their alleged role in the decision making and in the procurement process of the AgustaWestland choppers. The source said that the agency has got the documents related to their alleged involvement in the case.
The source also said that the agency has got the tip off about the alleged involvement of five officials after two officials turned as witness for the CBI earlier this year and shared the details of these five officials with the CBI. The source said that once the prosecution sanction is granted or denied by the government, the agency will file its supplementary charge-sheet in the case.
On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore. The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.
The CBI probe revealed that several payments were made to the Tyagis by Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel. Indian investigative agencies in December 2018 deported Christian Michel, a British national and one of the middlemen of the scrapped deal. He has been in judicial custody since then. Michel, Haschke and Gerosa are the three alleged middlemen being probed in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper scam by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Contrary to what is reported above, no evidence has ever been presented to substantiate the CBI’s claims of payments made in relation to the sale of the VVIP helicopters.
Several trials in Italy on the basis of these Indian allegations, which went all the way to the nation’s top tribunal, the Corte di Cassazione, cleared the former and then-current CEOs of Italian helicopter maker Agusta Westland.
The fact remains that the decision to change the required performance, which the CBI claims was made by former Indian Air Force Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, was in fact made by a committee chaired by a ranking official from the Indian Prime Minister’s office.
We have published several reports on the subject, one of which can be found here)