The CBI on Thursday set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the AugustaWestland VVIP chopper scam and the money laundering case of businessman Vijay Mallya.
Earlier, the CBI team had registered a preliminary enquiry on the basis of some important documents that it had obtained from Italian probe agencies in connection with the alleged payment of kickbacks by AgustaWestland to bag the chopper deal. A complete case would be registered once sufficient evidence is collected.
As per CBI sources, Tyagi, who is accused of receiving kickbacks through middlemen from the Italian firm bidding to seal a deal with India regarding the supply of VVIP choppers, had reportedly visited Florence, Milan and Venice after retirement.
The CBI is examining the purpose of these trips and has questioned several others in connection with the case.
Besides, Tyagi, his cousins – Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep – are also under the CBI scanner in connection with the case. A Delhi-based lawyer, Gautam Khaitan, who allegedly played a key role in moving the bribe money, has also been examined in the case.
The Milan Court of Appeals – the equivalent of a High Court in India – has, in its recent order, given details of how alleged bribes were paid by helicopter-maker AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch the deal.
Importantly, Tyagi’s name finds mention in the court order at several points.
CBI had lodged a case against Tyagi and 12 others, including Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep, and European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke and Christian Michel.
The agency has alleged that Tyagi had reduced the service ceiling – the maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally – from 6,000 m to 4,500 m to purportedly let AgustaWestland be eligible for the bids, as its AW-101 helicopter was not eligible for submission of bids at the original ceiling.
Tyagi has, however, denied the allegations and has claimed that the decision to reduce the ceiling was taken by a group of senior officials. The decision was taken in consultation with the Special Protection Group (SPG) and other top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office, he has said.
The agency is also probing the Rs 3,727-crore VVIP chopper deal over charges of bribery.
Since March 2013, when the CBI registered a first information report to probe allegations that the choppers’ manufacturers, UK-based AW Limited, used middlemen to bribe influential Indians to tweak the deal in its favour, it has sent formal request to eight countries seeking money-tail transaction details.