NEW DELHI: A CBI special investigation team (SIT) will probe corruption accusations in the AgustaWestland chopper scam and loan default allegations against liquor baron Vijay Mallya and former Paramount Airways promoter M Thiagarajan, possibly fast-tracking inquiry in the high-profile cases.
T he Central Bureau of Investigation said on Thursday it set up an SIT and deployed additional sleuths with diverse specialisations to expedite probes in a handful of high-profile corruption cases with a“single-minded focus ”.
“For now, the SIT will be probing the AgustaWestland bribery scam and bank loan default cases against Vijay Mallya and Paramount Airways’ then promoter. But more cases will be entrusted to it as and when required,” said an agency source.
The CBI is probing allegations that the United Kingdom-based AgustaWestland used middlemen and bribes worth ` 360 crore to bag the defence helicopter deal. The deal to purchase 12 choppers went to the company after a key technical requirement was relaxed in March 2005.
The scam dominated the recently concluded budget session of Parliament with the BJP using the allegations to paint the Congress leadership into a corner.
Mallya’s alleged loan default of over Rs 9,000 crore has also dominated headlines since the industrialist left India for the UK in March.
A consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India have approached the Supreme Court and the government has initiated deportation proceedings but without much success. The SIT will be headed by CBI’s additional director Rakesh Asthana. He will report to the agency chief Anil Sinha.
The agency has been probing the AgustaWestland case since 2013 but is awaiting money-trail details from seven countries that will enable it to submit a charge sheet against the case’s 13 accused persons and six firms.
In the Mallya case, last July the CBI registered a case against the 60-year-old and his defunct Kingfisher Airlines for alleged default on a Rs 900 crore loan by the public sector IDBI bank.
The CBI questioned Mallya thrice before he left India and says it will widen its probe into his total bank loan defaults.
On March 7, the Enforcement Directorate that probes financial crimes, registered a money-laundering case against Mallya and Kingfisher.
Last month, the CBI said it forwarded to the Interpol the ED’s request for an issuance of a red corner notice, warranting his arrest across the globe. On the ED’s request, India revoked Mallya’s passport in April.
The CBI also registered a cheating case against Paramount Airways and its former promoter M Thiagarajan last month for alleged unauthorised sale of assets.