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Chopper deal: Tyagi denies involvement

Posted on Feb 13, 04:38PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Feb 13 : While Italian investigators have alleged that ex-Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi was bribed by Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica to swing the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers in favour of the company, he denied his involvement in the matter on Wednesday.

He said the allegations were 'baseless'.

"These allegations are totally baseless and I am denying them categorically," Tyagi told media.

Earlier the same day, Tyagi told CNN-IBN: "In my knowledge, nothing was done that I could doubt on."

He said: "I am ready for the inquiry and I want it to happen. I welcome the inquiry."

Defence minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday said the Indian government was awaiting a report from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers before taking action.

"We have blacklisted six companies in the past out of those, four are biggest. We don't fear how big they are. Whoever is found guilty will have to pay the price. Nobody will be spared," Antony said.

However, the minister said there would be no "jumping to conclusions" and so the government would wait for the probe report.

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the government for delayed probe and even chose to embarrass it over the Italian connection of the scam.

"Why was there no investigation on this side when there was an investigation in Italy? Was it because the company was from Italy?" asked BJP senior leader and spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad who did not directly name Italy-born Sonia Gandhi but obliquely said that the company in question again is an Italian firm like the Bofors scam also had the link of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.

Prasad said it was surprising that there was no investigation on this side into a over Rs 3, 500 crore deal.

"The future supply should be immediately stopped and the entire deal should be reviewed. Why was there a wrong statement in Parliament on this?" asked Prasad.

"I want to ask the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi what kind of India are they trying to build with so many scams?" asked Prasad.

Prasad questioned the delay in probe and said why was not the CBI asked to investigate earlier.

On Tuesday, the Indian government ordered a CBI probe into the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers.

The government made the move after the Italian police on Tuesday arrested the chief executive officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, in connection with the investigation into the case of the sale of helicopters to India.

"Press reports have appeared from time to time on the subject of Italian prosecutors having initiated a probe into the alleged unethical dealings of M/s. Finmeccanica, Italy. The probe had been widened to include the Indian contract signed with M/s. Augusta Westland (UK)," Ministry of Defence said in statement on Tuesday.

"The said contract was signed in February, 2010 for the purchase of 12 helicopters. In view of media reports, MoD through the Ministry of External Affairs had sought information from the Governments of Italy and UK. No specific inputs were, however, received substantiating the allegations," the ministry said.

"In a recent report, appearing in certain sections of the media, it has been reported that the Chairman of M/s. Finmeccanica has been arrested in connection with the investigation into the case of the sale of helicopters to India. The contract signed with M/s. Augusta Westland includes specific contractual provisions against bribery and the use of undue influence as well as an Integrity Pact." it said.

"Since no specific input has been received so far from the two Governments, MoD has decided to refer the case to CBI for inquiry," it said.

Italian police arrested Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal, reports said.

"Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, was arrested on Tuesday in relation to a probe into international corruption," Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"Orsi is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale to the Indian government of 12 helicopters produced by AgustaWestland, which Finmeccanica controls," it said.