The CBI has booked a case against a Brigadier working with Army Aviation Corps for allegedly tweaking the trial flight records of the light utility helicopters to favour AgustaWestland, which is already under a cloud over the VVIP chopper scam.
According to CBI, Brig Saini was part of the team carrying out the trials to procure 197 light utility helicopters. “The case has been registered under various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, including abuse of official position, and Indian Penal Code including charges of forgery,” a CBI spokesperson said.
HT had reported in February 2013 how Italian investigators looking into the AgustaWestland helicopter scam had come across a confidential document that mentioned the names of the army officials—including a Brigadier Saini—with the former’s name being taken in an allegation that he had sought bribe money of 5 million euros from the Italian defence manufacturing company.
Saini is alleged to have made contact with the Italians and “offered his services in order to help eliminate the competition” on technical grounds.
A document dated January 18, 2010, just before the evaluation trails for helicopters (on January 25, 2010), also brings out the fact that the middlemen knew the composition of the trial testing team which is mentioned in the document as comprising three pilots and an engineer from the army while two pilots and one engineer were to come from the air force.
Investigators had located the files during a search at the home of Swiss businessman and arms agent Guido Haschke’s mother. On being confronted by the investigators, she pretended to be suddenly ill so as to prevent them from reaching out to the hidden place.
The Defence Acquisitions Council, headed by defence minister AK Antony, has put the purchase of the helicopters on hold till the investigations were completed in the case.