VVIP choppers deal: ED questions ex-IAF chief again

Thursday, May 12, 2016,10:18 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

New Delhi | ED has questioned former IAF chief S P Tyagi yet again in connection with its money laundering probe in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal in order to obtain some more information from him on the role of the three alleged middlemen named in the case.

Officials said the agency questioned the ex-Chief of Staff of the Air Force yesterday at length and is understood to have confronted him about his and his cousins dealings with the alleged middlemen in the case including Christian Michel.

Tyagi was twice questioned by the agency last week and officals in the agency said he was called again to explain his meetings with Michel in light of some statements made by other witnesses and accused in the case.

Last week, officials had said, that while Tyagi had denied having any dealings or connection with the alleged middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke and Michel, he is understood to have accepted of having some fleeting meeting in the past with Gerosa.

Michel, in an interview to ‘TV Today’ news channel today, had sought to clear his name from the kickbacks scam in this case claiming he had once shaken hands with Tyagi in Delhi but avoided him for his links with Haschke. The retired Air Chief Marshal has been questioned in the same case by CBI earlier.

Agency sources had earlier indicated that Tyagi’s questioning was necessary in the light of a recent judgement of a Milan (Italy) court which had sentenced Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica’s former chief Giuseppe Orsi and former CEO of the firm Bruno Spagnolini on corruption charges in the sale of a dozen AgustaWestland helicopters to India for VVIP flying duties.

Tyagi’s name had cropped at various points in the judgement. The allegation against him is that he allegedly reduced the height of the VVIP helicopters so that AgustaWestland could be included in the bids. He took over as the Indian Air Force chief on December 31, 2005 and retired from service in 2007.

Tyagi, however, has denied any wrongdoing on his part. ED had registered a PMLA case in this regard in 2014 and named 21 people including Tyagi in its money laundering FIR. It had also arrested Delhi-based businessman Gautam Khaitan and had also filed a charge sheet last year.

It had earlier submitted that Khaitan was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix which was allegedly a front firm for the financial dealings in the chopper deal. On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW101 VVIP choppers to IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal. Meanwhile, CBI today again questioned Khaitan, Praveen Bakshi and Paratap Agarwal in the case.

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