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VVIP chopper scam: Middlemen contacted before Tyagi became air force chief

The cost of buying 12 choppers from AgustaWestland to fly VVIPs was worked out to Rs 792.82 crore. But the final contract was signed for Rs 3,726 crore in 2010.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2017 23:03 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
A file photo of an AgustaWestland helicopter.
A file photo of an AgustaWestland helicopter.(HT File Photo)

The Central Bureau Investigation (CBI)’s first charge sheet in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam has alleged that before SP Tyagi — who has been charged in the scam — became the air force chief in 2004, his cousin Sanjeev, had contacted middleman Guido Haschke.

The government had decided at the time to roll out calls for proposals from various companies to buy 12 choppers for ferrying VVIPs and their security detail.

According to the chargesheet, Sanjeev ‘Juile’ Tyagi, ‘proposed himself along with his own family to Haschke as a middleman’.

Sanjeev reportedly told Haschke that his cousin would soon become the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, he should look for contacts either in the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) that manufactures the Eurocopter, or Finmeccanica, the makers of AgustaWestland choppers, both of which were being considered as strong contenders. Haschke managed to get in touch with Finmeccanica’s bosses,

Besides SP Tyagi, the CBI has formally charged his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi, lawyer Gautam Khaitan, alleged middlemen Christian Michel, Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke, former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini and former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi in the case.

The initial operational requirements (ORs) for the project mandated the chopper should fly up to 6,000 meters, but the AgustaWestland chopper could go up only 4,500 meters. The CBI alleged that when SP Tyagi was the air chief, the IAF changed its stand and agreed to a lower service ceiling.

The cost of buying 12 choppers was pegged at Rs 792.82 crore but the final contract for Rs 3,726 crore was signed in 2010 after technical evaluation and negotiations.

The chargesheet also says the finance ministry raised several objections to the deal. Even after clarifications from the ministry of defence, the secretary (expenditure) observed in July, 2009 that: “The resultant cost appears to be fairly steep (even higher than a fighter aircraft). It is difficult to support…for approval.”

After detailed deliberations, it was decided that the finance ministry’s observations and the defence ministry’s replies would be annexed with the final note submitted to the cabinet committee on security (CCS) for approval. The CCS approved the proposal in January, 2010.

The CBI has alleged that while ORs and a request for proposal were being finalised, three cousins of SP Tyagi — Sanjeev, Sandeep and Rajiv — purportedly received Rs 2.28 crore from Haschke’s Tunisia-based company Gordian Services. During searches at Haschke’s mother’s home in Lugano in April, 2012, a document was seized which summarised the funds from AgustaWestland paid to the Tyagi brothers among others. It showed payments of 14.41 million euros from the company to various parties till March 2011. The document showed that the Tyagi brothers were to be paid 10.50 million euros in total of which, 3 million euros had already been paid.