Defence minister AK Antony has decided to ask the CBI to investigate the stalled procurement of 197 light utility helicopters for the army after Brigadier VS Saini's name figured in Italy's probe into the Agusta-Westland 12 VVIP helicopter bribery case.
The decision to hand over the case to CBI was taken last week after the army headquarters asked for an independent probe into helicopter acquisition in which Agusta-Westland was one of the contenders.
Government sources said the formal process of handing over the case to CBI had already begun and the defence ministry would be soon writing to the agency to register a case in the Rs 3,000-crore deal. According to the documents recovered from the residence of mother of Agusta-Westland Italian consultant Guido Haschke, Saini allegedly asked for $5 million to fix the deal for the Italian-British manufacturer.
The other contenders for the contract were Russian Kamov 226T and Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec. While Agusta-Westland was knocked out in initial stages, the chopper deal was put on hold on technical grounds in 2007.
While the CBI is still to send a formal report in the AW 101 VVIP helicopter scandal to the defence ministry, another probe on Agusta-Westland means that the European company now runs a serious risk of being black-listed by the Indian defence ministry.
"We are awaiting the CBI report on the VVIP chopper scam as only then will the ministry be able to cancel the contract and take action ... The Italian investigators are also independently expected to file a chargesheet...," said a senior official.