New Delhi, Dec 9 The CBI on Friday arrested former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S.P. Tyagi on charges of corruption in its ongoing probe into the Rs 3,767-crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal.
S.P. Tyagi is the first chief of any wing of the armed forces to be arrested in the country.
He was taken into custody from Delhi along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie Tyagi and a Delhi-based lawyer, Gautam Khaitan, for their involvement in alleged irregularities in the procurement of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from a UK-based private company AgustaWestland.
They were arrested after being called for questioning to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters in south Delhi. S.P. Tyagi has denied the allegations hurled against him.
“S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev and Gautam Khaitan were arrested from Delhi. They will be produced before a designated CBI court on Saturday,” CBI spokesperson Devpreet Singh told IANS.
She said the total deal amount in AgustaWestland was Rs 3,767 crore and bribe amount was 12 per cent of this.
“It was revealed during investigation that undue favours were allegedly shown to AgustaWestland by accepting illegal gratification from the accused vendors through middlemen or relatives including S.P. Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev and advocate Khaitan,” the spokesperson said.
“The arrested persons accepted the illegal gratification for exercising influence through illegal means and personal influence over the concerned public servants,” she said.
It was alleged that S.P. Tyagi entered into criminal conspiracy with the other accused in 2005, one year after he came to head the IAF.
S.P. Tyagi, his cousins Sanjeev, Rajiv and Sandeep and 14 others, including three European middlemen — Guido Ralph Haschke, Carlo Vlentino Ferdinando Gerosa and Christian Michel — were named in an FIR which the Central Bureau of Investigation lodged in March 12, 2013.
Others named in the FIR are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt Ltd Praveen Bakshi, Chairman of IDS Infotech Ltd (India) Satish Bagrodia and its Managing Director Pratap K. Aggarwal.
Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, then CEOs of the Italy-based companies Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, were also named in the FIR. And so were companies Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd (India) and Aeromatrix India.
All the accused, companies included, were booked for criminal conspiracy, cheating and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The former IAF chief has been accused in Italy and India of helping AgustaWestland win the chopper contract by reducing the flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres (15,000 feet).
CBI officials probing the case told IANS that such changes in operational requirements made AgustaWestland eligible to participate in the Request For Proposal (RFP) for VVIP helicopters.
RFP is a document that solicits proposal, often made through a bidding process.
S.P. Tyagi has said the decision to buy AgustaWestland helicopters was reportedly taken in consultation with officials of the Special Protection Group and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Twelve helicopters were to be bought by India but the deal was axed in January 2013 when the corruption allegations surfaced.
Tyagi headed the IAF from 2004 to 2007 when the Congress ruled India. The Congress-led coalition was voted out in 2014.
An Italian court in April this year purportedly referred to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, among others, in connection with the chopper deal but gave no details of any wrongdoing by either.