Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on Agusta SIT
On a PIL filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, SC issued a notice to the Centre seeking its stand on an SIT probe into AgustaWestland. Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, alleged massive kickbacks and irregularities in AgustaWestland's deals with state governments and is seeking an SIT-probe. CAG reports substantiate this and mention the opaque manner in which J&K, Rajasthan, UP, Chhattisgarh and AP purchased helicopters.
On 12 February 2013, the CEO of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi was arrested and with his detention, the chopper scandal broke out. India had signed a contract for the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters in February 2010. With the arrest of AgustaWestland's parent company's CEO by Italian authorities, India's Defense Minister AK Antony ordered a probe into the contract.
The name of ex IAF chief SP Tyagi and 12 others surfaced in the FIR submitted by CBI for "alleged cheating and criminal conspiracy in Rs.3600 crore VVIP helicopter deal." Former Union minister Santosh Bagrodia's brother Satish Bagrodia and Pratap Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of IDS Infotech were named too. Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix were the 4 companies which were named.
Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini of defense major Finmeccanica were sentenced by a Milan appeals court in a graft case involving 12 VVIP choppers' sale to India for Rs.3,600 crore. Orsi- Finmeccanica's former chief was given 4.5 years in jail while Spagnolini- former CEO of AgustaWestland (Finmeccanica's subsidiary) got a four-year sentence. With this judgement, the court reversed the 2014 order which acquitted Orsi.
Milan Court of Appeals released a 225-page judgment and said that 'corruption' took place during the 2010 deal between the former Indian government and Finmeccanica. It stated that a part of some $10-15 million had made their way to Indian officials. A 17-page-long chapter on ex-IAF Chief Tyagi was included in the judgment, which outlined the grounds on which he was accused of corruption.
The court reportedly described how Finmeccanica bribed senior Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi, MK Narayanan, and ex-PM Manmohan Singh to strike the Rs.3600 crore chopper deal. The judge described Sonia Gandhi as the 'driving force behind the' deal.
The Italian Court stated that payments were made to Tyagi, currently facing CBI and ED's investigations, and his family (including three cousins) through wire transfers and in cash. The court's ruling was based on the tapped conversations of alleged mediators Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke. It added that the attempts to conceal Tyagi's involvement in the scam and destroy potential evidence were also made.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a press conference, alleged that the then-Defence Minister AK Anthony and Congress-Chief Sonia Gandhi were involved in the AgustaWestland scam. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy sought suspension of Question Hour and demanded a debate on the scam. Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar demanded an explanation from Congress on the 'very important and serious' case.
Amid the raging row over VVIP chopper scam, the government said it would seek a report from the CBI on the deal and initiate the move to blacklist AgustaWestland. Sources claimed the UPA government had not blacklisted AgustaWestland despite allegations of bribery. The government has sought a report from the CBI on the matter of AgustaWestland's dealings in India
The ex-Air Force chief SP Tyagi has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with money-laundering probe in the 3,600 crore AgustaWestland-chopper scam. The Enforcement Directorate maintained that it had identified politicians, bureaucrats, IAF officers and other beneficiaries of the kickbacks in 'Choppergate' who would be soon questioned. This is the first time an ex- Chief of Staff has been called for questioning.
Indian middleman Gautam Khaitan admitted to having received money from two Swiss middlemen for the AgustaWestland chopper deal. Khaitan confirmed to the CBI that IDS Tunisia, IDS India and Aeromatrix were used to route the money received from the Italian defence manufacturer. Meanwhile, the ED has approached the Income Tax Department seeking details of the transactions of Indian officials involved in the scandal.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan and his colleague Yogendra Yadav stated that the Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh bribed officials for a chopper deal in his state. The allegations were made after media houses flagged a complaint filed with the Income Tax Department urging a probe into AgustaWestland's deals in J&K, Rajasthan, UP, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Raman Singh has denied the accusations.