A month before a key technical requirement was eased to allow AgustaWestland Limited (AW) bag an Indian deal in 2010, then air force chief SP Tyagi met a top official of its parent firm Finmeccanica in Delhi.
UK-based AW Ltd clinched the Indian contract to sell 12 VVIP AW-101 choppers in February 2010 for `3,727.
“SP Tyagi admitted he met Giorgio Zappa, then chief operating officer of Finmeccanica, on February 15, 2005. He did not disclose why he met or what transpired in the meeting,” said a CBI source. Tyagi did not admit to this while being questioned on Monday, “[but] the CBI has records that prove he met Zappa — including the visitors’ register concerned — among others”.
“A month later, on March 14, 2005, Tyagi agreed to the reduction of the mandatory service ceiling of 6,000m to 4,500m, thereby reversing the IAF’s consistent stand on this,” said the source.
It is alleged that the air force, under Tyagi’s leadership, agreed to reduce the key mandatory requirement of the VVIP helicopters. This tweak helped AgustaWestland, the British arm of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, to “re-enter the fray”, as one investigator put it.
The CBI is probing allegations that Finmeccanica and AW spent Rs 360 crore to bribe influential people in India, including Tyagi and his three cousins, to manipulate specifications to bag the contract. However, the accused have called these claims baseless.
Tyagi was questioned at the CBI headquarters for nine hours on Tuesday for the second time this week, and he will be again be questioned on Wednesday with another accused, Gautam Khaitan.
The former air chief allegedly owned four Noida-based firms that were incorporated in 2011-12, after his retirement in 2007. The agency is investigating if the firms had any dealings with AW Ltd or other firms under its scanner.
The CBI has learnt that Tyagi also met former AW chief executive officer Bruno Spagnolini, and European middlemen, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, in January 2007. “Haschke and Gerosa, in collusion with their three Indian contacts named in the CBI FIR, managed to make inroads in IAF through Air Chief Marshal (retired) SP Tyagi and thereby could influence and subvert IAF’s consistent stand on the service ceiling,” said another CBI source.