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Posted on Feb 25, 10:51PM | IANS
New Delhi, Feb 25 : Based on the material its team got from Italy, the CBI Monday registered a preliminary enquiry against 11 people, including former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, and four companies in the $750 million/Rs.3,600-crore deal for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland.
Besides Tyagi, the inquiry names his cousins Sanjeev alias 'Julie' Tyagi, Docsa Tyagi, Sandeep Tyagi, advocate Gautam Khaitan, formerly associated with Aeromatrix, and the company's CEO Praveen Bakshi.
Others named in the inquiry include Giuseppe Orsi, the former CEO of Italian defence major Finmeccanica, Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland - a Britain-based subsidiary of Finmeccanica - and alleged middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke, Karlo Valentino, Ferdinando Gerosa, and Christian Michel.
The firms named are Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd. (India) and Aeromatrix India.
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and defence ministry team last week went to Italy to collect documents concerning alleged kickbacks to clinch the deal.
Informed sources said it was the second instance of a former service chief having faced a CBI inquiry concerning a deal with foreign firms.
They said former navy chief Sushil Kumar was questioned by the agency in connection with alleged kickbacks in the purchase of Barak missiles from Israel during tenure of the National Democratic Alliance-led government.
Tyagi has categorically denied any involvement in influencing the VVIP helicopters deal in favour of AgustaWestland. Sanjeev Tyagi had also termed allegations of involvement of his family in the kickbacks as "hundred percent wrong and baseless".
Bakshi, too, has rubbished claims that the firm had anything to do with the alleged kickbacks in the deal.
CBI sources said preliminery inquiry had been registered on the basis of documents which the agency got while its team was in Italy.
The matter came to light after Italian agencies arrested Orsi for suspected corruption to seal the deal.
The government Feb 15 initiated action for cancellation of the contract for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs and issued a formal show cause notice to AgustaWestland seeking cancellation of contract. Two days earlier, it put on hold further payments to the company.
Sources said AgustaWestland, in its reply to the government's notice, stated that the allegations of bribery were based on unsubstantiated news reports and investigations in Italy were at a pre-trial stage.
The company also said that procedures had been followed and suspension of payment to it was not justified.
The kickbacks controversy erupted at a time the government was bracing up for the budget session of parliament.
The opposition has already signalled it will raise the issue forcefully during the session.
The government has said it has nothing to hide and was open to any suggestion for a probe into the deal.
Defence ministry officials said they would decide on asking more questions to AgustaWestland after looking at the material gathered by its senior official who went to Italy and the CBI report.
"If necessary we will ask further questions and confront them with facts we have," a ministry official said.
The contract for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters was signed in 2010.