Agusta scam back in focus after Michel's extradition

Agusta scam back in focus after Michel's extradition

Agusta Westland scam accused middleman Michel Christian at CBI headquarters in New Delhi, on early Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (PTI Photo)

The extradition of Christian Michel has once again brought focus on the AgustaWestland scam, which has the dubious distinction of having the alleged involvement of a former Air Chief Air, a first in Indian military's history.

Air Marshal SP Tyagi had become the first former Air Chief to be formally charged with corruption last September with CBI filing a voluminous chargesheet in the multi-crore scam.

Besides Tyagi, those named in the chargesheet are former vice Air chief J S Gujral, Tyagi's cousin Julie Tyagi, former CEOs of AgustaWestland Guiseppe Orsi and Finmeccanica's Bruno Spagnolini, three alleged middlemen Christian Michel, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa and lawyer Gautam Khaitan and the Italian company are named in the chargesheet.

As the scam-hit created more troubles, the UPA government had on January 1, 2014 scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks.

According to CBI, during his tenure as the then IAF chief, Tyagi and "with his approval" the Air Force "conceded to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 m to 4,500 m as mandatory (although) it was vehemently opposing the same on grounds of security constraints and other related reasons". This was to help AgustaWestland.

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The CBI has informed the court that it has been able to establish money trail worth Euro 62 million (around Rs 415.40 crore) from countries like Mauritius, Singapore, the UAE, Tunisia, the UK and the British Virgin Island. The CBI had earlier sent Letters Rogatories seeking information from these countries.

The Enforcement Directorate has also filed chargesheets against Tyagi and others in the case. The ED has claimed in the chargesheet that money has been laundered through multiple foreign companies which were used as fronts to park alleged kickbacks.

According to the ED chargesheet, "one channel was handled by middleman Christian Michel and the other channel was handled by Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke. Gerosa and Haschke in collusion with Tyagi Brothers, cousins of S P Tyagi, conspired with Gautam Khaitan of M/s OP Khaitan and Co, Auditors and Solicitors based at New Delhi."