The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began questioning former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi on Monday in connection with its probe into alleged corruption in the AgustaWestland (AW) choppers deal.
Tyagi was summoned for allegedly receiving bribes from the United Kingdom-based AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, to help change technical requirements that enabled the firm to bag the Indian deal in 2010.
The deal, which was cancelled two years ago, was for the supply of 12 VVIP AW-101 choppers for a price of Rs 3,727 crore.
AgustaWestland allegedly approached Tyagi through three of his cousins during his stint as air chief in 2005-2007. The four Tyagis, who were named in the First Information Report of the CBI and Enforcement Department in the case, deny the allegations.
Tyagi was questioned twice after the CBI had registered the case FIR in March 2013. Tyagi will be questioned again following revelations over his role by former air force deputy chief JS Gujral to the CBI last week.
Here are five issues that Tyagi needs to explain to CBI interrogators.
1) Media reports allege that a key mandatory operational requirement, a service ceiling of 6,000 metres, which is the optimum height at which a chopper can fly, was reduced to 4500 metres. This change was made after a March 2005 meeting by the then national security adviser during Tyagi’s stint as air chief. This helped AW as its chopper was disqualified in 2002 by the air force on grounds it could only fly at 4500 metres and its subsequent representations for a re-consideration of its case was rejected as well.
2) A meeting on March 7, 2005 on the service ceiling issue, which occurred at the air force headquarters and was attended by several stakeholders, agreed to reduce the required service ceiling from 6,000 metres to 4500 metres. The Air force’s decision was in contrast to its earlier consistent stand opposing the service ceiling’s reduction. Later, a fresh comparative test was introduced as that was related to how the chopper might cope with a non-functioning engine. For AW, with its three engines, this test was a gift.
3) The Air forcein January 2004 sent a note to the then defence secretary saying a service ceiling of 6,000 metres was required, because VVIPs needed to travel to high-altitude places, such as the Siachen glacier. Again, in November 2004, the air force reiterated its stand on the issue in a meeting held by the then defence secretary. The stand was reversed in March 2005 under Tyagi’s watch.
4) Tyagi will have to explain to the CBI if there was any alleged link to his acceptance of the service ceiling’s reduction in March 2005 to payments of €3.26 lakh to his cousins as consultancy charges by a Tunisian firm, Gordian Services, Sarl. The payments were made between May 2004 AND to February 2005 by the Tunisian firm controlled by two case accused--AW’s European middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. The payments, in fact, began barely a month after the air force had decided in April 2004 that the AW chopper was not suited for ferrying VVIPs including the President and the Prime Minister.
5) Tyagi will be asked if he met AW’s three alleged European middlemen--Haschke, Gerosa and Christian Michel--up to seven times. Tyagi will be asked if he had allegedly received cash payments from these middlemen as part of the bribery transactions AW allegedly undertook in India to manipulate technical specifications that disqualified its chopper.