The CBI turned the tables by arresting former IAF chief S.P. Tyagi for his alleged involvement in AgustaWestland Scam. Retired chief Shashindra Pal Tyagi was accused of accepting bribes for the purchase of 12 helicopters (AW-101 deal) that was meant use of the PM and the President. The total cost involved in this scandal amounted to Rs. 2,546 crores. While the CBI claims that retired Air Chief Marshal has influenced Indian government’s dealing with Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland, but we can’t take their word for sure.
In 2013, UPA government had assigned this case to CBI but we know the investigation agency is infamous for ‘mishandling’ scams. From Bofors scandal to Hawala, 2G Spectrum and Coal Allocation, we don’t remember a single that has been rightfully solved by the CBI. Nothing came out of their investigations except for ruined reputations of good officers, who were not to be blamed. Now, Tyagi’s fate is in unknown hands.
Here’s what you need to know about AgustaWestland Scam.
Timeline for AgustaWestland Scam
- The Deal
Replace older Mi-8 helicopters with new AgustaWestland choppers. Out of these, 8 will be allotted to VVIPS, VPs, PM and the President. 4 will be allotted for other duties.
- The Proceedings
In March 2002, when the government opened a tender, four vendors proposed their bids. Only Eurocopter EC-225 met the standards set by the government. Finmeccania bagged the 556 million Euro contract (amounting to Rs. 3,546 crores). The deal was sealed by AgustaWestland.
The very next year, NSA Brahesh Mishra who was employed in PMO directed IAF Tyagi to avoid single vendor situation. Appropriate changes were made by MoD and Tyagi between March 2005 to September 2006.
Italian attorney general took up the case of shady dealings between Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Indian government. Guido Ralph Haschke, the broker who pocketed 51 million euros from AW was arrested. Other noteworthy members like Giuseppe Orsi, CEO & CM of Finmeccania was also arrested for paying a bribe worth Rs. 360 crore to Indian government.
- Court Proceedings
Orsi and others involved in the case paid bribes via Haschke and company that paid the middleman. Haschke directed Tyagi to alter tender terms in their favour. The terms and conditions for this interaction was recorded in a secret talk where Haschke talked of transferring money through Tunisia and Mauritius.
Lower courts blamed Orsi and Tyagi for charge of international corruption and false invoicing in October 2014. Tyagi and Orsi denied all charges. The case was directed to higher courts. In April 2016, Milan’s Court of Appeals overturned the verdict and ruled against Orsi. Since money was sent to Tyagi and his family members by wire-transfer, the court acquitted Tyagi. Italian judiciary mentioned that UPA II (Indian government) didn’t provide enough documents and evidences to Italian prosecutors in 2013-2014
Former excecutive Lorenzo Borgogni from Finmeccanica provided evidence for investigation. He reported the sudden hike in Haschke’s payment (from 10 million to 41 million Euros).
- Indian Government’s Role
Defence Minister A.K. Antony demanded probe. Other than Rs. 1,620 (amounting to 45% of the contract money) that was already paid by the government, remaining dues were frozen. In return, the government accepted just 3 choppers.
Amidst heightened tension between UPA (Congress) and NDA (BJP), UPA ordered CBI investigations. CBI filed an FIR in 2013. Following punishments were charted out:
- P. Tyagi was arrested in India (he was let off on bail),
- Haschke and Gerosa were arrested in Italy,
- Sanjeev Kumar Tyagi (cousin of S.P. Tyagi), Giuseppe Orsi (Ex-CEO and chairman, Finmeccanica) and Bruno Spagnolini (ex-CEO, Agusta Westland) were imprisoned for four years.
- British middleman Christian Michel was also acquitted in this case.
Now, the issue has heated up with Tyagi’s re-arrest.
We don’t know what will be the outcome of this arrest, but the proceedings have raised some important questions like:
- Who conducted trials in India?
- What was BV Wanchoo’s (ex-governor of Goa) role in this scam?
- Why didn’t CBI and ED speed up proceedings despite MoD repeatedly asking them to hurry up?
Only time can give us answers…