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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Agusta case: CBI examining Narayanan's statement

PTI  New Delhi, July 01, 2014
First Published: 20:40 IST(1/7/2014) | Last Updated: 21:21 IST(1/7/2014)

CBI is scrutinising the statement given by MK Narayanan, who on Monday resigned as West Bengal governor, in AgustaWestland chopper case and no decision has been taken on whether to include him as a witness.

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CBI sources said statement of Narayanan, former National Security Adviser, is still in scrutiny stage and no conclusive view has been taken whether to include him as witness in the charge sheet or as an accused.

The sources said Narayanan's statement is being examined in the light of claims made by then Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, an accused in the FIR, that specifications were recommended to be changed by the committee comprising then NSA Narayanan and then SPG chief BV Wanchoo.

"Unless recommendation by Narayanan and Wanchoo resulted from some malafide intention, they cannot be categorised as accused in the case. So far there is nothing against them and we are treating them as witnesses," a CBI official said.

80-year-old Narayanan recorded his statement before CBI and answered questions relating to March 1, 2005 meeting in which a decision was taken to reduce "service ceiling" (or the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from 6000 metres to 4500 metres.

This was for the first time that a serving Governor was been questioned by CBI.

During the questioning spread well over two hours, Narayanan explained the rationale behind the decision and also cited that his predecessor in the previous NDA government Brajesh Mishra had decided to lower the service ceiling in December 2003.

Narayanan was appointed as governor of West Bengal in 2010.

CBI had recorded Narayanan's statement as part of its probe into alleged Rs. 360 crore bribe paid in the deal that was scrapped by the UPA government in December, 2013.

The agency had registered a case against former IAF chief SP Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case.

The allegation against the former air chief was that he had reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter so that AgustaWestland company was included in the bids. Tyagi has refuted the allegation against him.

However, this decision was taken in consultation with the officials of SPG and the Prime Minister's Office including Narayanan and Wanchoo.

The reduction of the service ceiling-- maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally--allowed the firm to get into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

CBI claims the parameters regarding the height at which the helicopter can fly as well as the flight evaluation were changed in a manner that enabled AgustaWestland to clinch the deal vis-a-vis its competitor Sikorsky.

After this, CBI will now examine and record the statement of Goa governor BV Wanchoo as he was also part of of the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications of the chopper.

He was the chief of elite Special Protection Group (SPG) guarding the Prime Minister before he was appointed as governor.


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