HindustanTimes Sat,25 Oct 2014

CBI quizzes AP governor, widens Agusta case ambit

Abhishek Sharan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 09, 2014
First Published: 23:24 IST(9/7/2014) | Last Updated: 23:30 IST(9/7/2014)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday recorded the witness statement of Andhra Pradesh governor ESL Narasimhan, who is a former Intelligence Bureau chief, as a witness in its probe into alleged receipt of kickbacks in the Rs. 3,600 crore VVIP AgustaWestland choppers deal.

To track the trans-national money-trail, the CBI is set to send fresh judicial requests (Letters Rogatories) to five countries — Singapore, British Virgin Islands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the UAE.

The agency will seek details related to specific bank accounts and transactions, private firms and individuals from the concerned authorities in the five countries. The agency had last year also sent judicial requests to Italy, Tunisia and Mauritius.

CBI sought clarifications from Narasimhan since he, as the then IB director, was part of a March 1, 2005, meeting held by then National Security Advisor MK Narayanan that recommended the tweaking of a key technical specification, said a CBI source.

The meeting recommended the reduction of the service ceiling or the maximum altitude at which the chopper can fly from 6,000m to 4,500m, that allegedly allowed accused British firm AgustaWestland clinch the deal for the supply of 12 choppers in 2010, said the source.

Narasimhan was quizzed at the Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad by a CBI team for over two hours, according to a CBI source.

“Those who attended the meeting have claimed the service ceiling was relaxed to make the tendering process to avoid a single-tender situation as desired by the then government,” said the source.

In 2002 itself, the British firm’s chopper had been disqualified due to its insufficient flying capability (4,572m).

The agency had recently recorded the witness statements of two others who had attended the March 2005 — Narayanan, who quit as the West Bengal governor after his examination by the CBI, and the then Special Protection Group chief BV Wanchoo who quit as Goa’s governor hours after his questioning too.

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