Former IAF chief admits he met middleman in copter deal

Tyagi denies hand in Rs 3,600-crore Agusta Westland contract
Last Updated 13 February 2013, 20:18 IST

Former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi on Wednesday admitted meeting an Italian middleman who allegedly took money from Italian arms major Finmeccanica to secure a Rs 3,600-crore (€560 million) contract for purchasing 12 VVIP helicopters for the IAF's Communication Squadron.

Tyagi admitted meeting Italian middleman Carlo Gerosa at his cousin's place but went on to claim he had no further contacts with him.

“There is no denial of the fact that needle of suspicion is on me. I welcome the Central Bureau of Investigation probe, which will establish my innocence,” he said.

Tyagi went public with his comments hours after Italian prosecutors named three Indian brothers with family ties to the former IAF chief who reportedly took money to secure the VVIP helicopter contract for Agusta Westland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica.

In their warrant, Italian prosecutors at north Italian town of Busto Arsizio named three Tyagi brothers—Julie, Docsa and Sandeep—for accepting money from two middlemen for swinging the Rs 3,600-crore deal in favour of Agusta Westland.

Quoting the Italian warrant, Reuters reports from Busto Arszio that Tyagi brothers received € 100,000 (about Rs 72 lakh) and two Italian middlemen Gerosa and Guido Haschke € 400,000 (about Rs 3  crore).

“I asked my brothers why were you named in the Italian probe. They said they had other business links with the company (Finmeccanica) but nothing in defence,” said Tyagi.

In October 2012, Agusta Westland claimed it never appointed, formally or informally, Guido Haschke as its agents and intermediaries in the VVIP programme and never paid any commission to him.

Tyagi said technical specifications for the aircraft—called air staff qualitative requirement (ASQR)— were frozen in 2003 before he took over. The flying height was brought down from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet to avoid single vendor situation.

George Fernandes was the defence minister when the ASQR was fixed.

Since Fernandes was a regular visitor to Siachen—world's highest battlefield—it was initially thought the VVIP copter should be capable of flying up to Kumar Post which is at an elevation of 18,000 feet. But when the search for an appropriate product began at the Vice-Chief's office, it was realised only one company would make the cut.

Subsequently, the requirement was lowered to 15,000 feet, height of  the Siachen base camp. When asked about the ASQR modification, S Krishnaswamy, who preceded Tyagi as the IAF chief, told Deccan Herald that he did not remember those figures and details.

The tender was issued in 2006, when Pranab Mukherjee was the defence minister. A defence ministry official said once the tender was issued, there was no deviation from the process.

In due course the project received approval from the Finance Ministry, where incidentally Mukherjee was minister when it received the approval. The contract was signed in 2010 after the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Chopper chaos
-Former IAF chief Tyagi says specifications fixed before his tenure; NDA’s George Fernandes was defence minister then

-Pranab Mukherjee was defence minister when tender was issued; gave approval when he was finance minister and endorsed by Cabinet Committee on Security

-Defence Minister A K Antony says deal can be cancelled at any time as the government will get back money; says no one involved will be spared

-Govt can take action on preliminary report by CBI, will decide on delivery of remaining nine choppers after report submission

- BJP senses “making of another Bofors scam”

-CPM demands Supreme Court monitoring of CBI probe

(Published 13 February 2013, 20:17 IST)

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