India's former air chief booked for corruption
15 March, 2013
ISLAMABAD: In a rare development, India's former air force chief SP Tyagi has been booked on charges of corruption and conspiracy in a VVIP chopper deal, according to India media.
The CBI in its First Information Report (FIR) said that Tyagi and his three cousins were bribed 4,26,000 euros to swing the contract for AugustaWestland. The FIR mentions as evidence a letter written by the retired air chief marshal in 2005, in which he allegedly approved scaling down the flying height of the helicopters from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet. The FIR makes a case for bribery and corruption against former air chief through his cousins Juli, Dosca and Sanjeev Tyagi.
While the Italians suggested that the Tyagi family was paid 100,000 euros in cash for the 12-helicopter deal, the CBI claims almost half a million euros were paid to the Tyagi brothers.
The CBI says it has tracked two payments, one of 1,26,000 euros over between August and October in 2004 and another of 200,000 euros in February 2005. This is in addition to the 100,000 euros in cash that, according to the CBI, the Tyagis got to influence the deal for Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland.
Former air force chief Tyagi and his brothers have denied wrongdoing in the chopper deal. But a senior CBI official told Indian media, "They say they were paid 200,000 euros as an advance payment for their consultancy services, but that doesn't happen anywhere in the world."
The FIR notes this payment as circumstantial evidence against former air chief Tyagi. While the payment of 200,000 euros was made before he took over as air force chief, the CBI says Tyagi's elevation to the post was confirmed by June-July 2004 and his cousins were negotiating with alleged middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke on his behalf much before he formally took office.
The CBI, like the Italian probe, notes that no money trail is directly linked to former air chief Tyagi yet and quotes only the Italian report in saying that "some unquantified amount has been given to SP Tyagi".
As its main evidence, the CBI says it has former air chief Tyagi's letter of March 8, 2005, written just three months after he formally took over.
The CBI says the letter, for the first time, gives the air force's approval to a flying height of 15000 feet for the helicopters. The CBI says that until then, the air force had been insisting that the helicopters should be able to fly at 18000 feet. The FIR quotes two letters from the air force in January 2004 and November 2004 to the Prime Minister's Office and the defence ministry.
The CBI says that with former air chief Tyagi's approval for 15000 feet, AgustaWestland became eligible as the air force's word was final.
Meanwhile, Indian Defence Ministry granted Italian firm Agusta Westland extension of deadline by seven days to explain its links with the software companies that were allegedly used to pay kickbacks in the Rs. 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter deal.
The ministry asked the firm last week to provide details about its transactions with Tunisia and India-based firms IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix. The Italian firm had sought a week's extension to explain its linkages with the two firms and the request has been granted by the Defence Ministry. Agusta Westland has been asked to furnish their clear replies within this stipulated time.