VVIP copter deal was scrapped in Jan. 2014 due to bribery charges
Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi (retd.) was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday, along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan, for alleged involvement in the Rs. 3,700-crore AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal case. Accused of routing the kickbacks, the lawyer was earlier arrested by the Enforcement Directorate.
The CBI has determined that about Rs. 450 crore, or 12 per cent of the Rs. 3,767-crore deal for procurement of 12 helicopters was paid as bribes. The government rescinded the contract in January 2014 in view of the bribery allegations.
A CBI spokesperson said, “Mr. Tyagi and the other two accused were summoned on Friday. They were arrested after about four hours of questioning at the agency headquarters.”
According to the official, “Mr. Tyagi allegedly entered into a conspiracy with other accused persons in 2005 and conceded to change the Air Force’s consistent stand that the 6,000-metre service ceiling of VVIP helicopters was an inescapable operational necessity. It was instead reduced to 4,500 metres. This helped AgustaWestland to meet the eligibility criteria for the contract. The kickbacks were received through middlemen and relatives.”
Claiming that he was innocent, Air Chief Marshal Tyagi had maintained that reducing the service ceiling was a collective decision involving senior officials of the Air Force, the Special Protection Group and other agencies. He was Chief of the Air Staff from December 31, 2004 to March 31, 2007.
The first charge sheet is expected to boost the agency’s request for extraditing alleged British middleman Christian Michel, who undertook about 300 trips to India between 1997 and 2013, from the UAE.