Requirements for choppers changed before my time, says Tyagi
Ex- Air force Chief Tyagi in an interview with CNN-IBN has once again categorically dismissed allegations that he was involved in the chopper bribery scam, as 'utter nonsense'.
" I am aware and I'm shocked at the charges being leveled against me. They are all patently false", he said, adding that any changes in requirements were made before his tenure as Air Force Chief, way back in 2003.
However he refused to comment on a question that he was hinting that the requirements were made during the NDA regime, saying that the decision was a purely professional one. "We were in need of an altitude capacity of 18,000 feet because of Siachen, and we had only one craft that could do that. So the requirements changed", he said.
Tyagi confirms that the people named in the report were his cousins
SP Tyagi confirms to CNN-IBN that Julie Tyagi (whose official name is Sanjeev Kumar Tyagi) and two of his brothers – referred to as Sandeep Tyagi and Docsa Tyagi are indeed related to him.
"To the best of my knowledge however, they have not done anything illegal with regard to this chopper deal", he said, adding "If the height of the helicopters were changed to benefit Augasta Western, I don't know how the Tyagi brothers figure in that."
Bring on a probe I welcome it, says SP Tyagi
Stressing his absolute innocence with regards to bribery charges being brought against him, Ex-Air force Chief SP Tyagi has said that he would welcome a probe into an Italian report that names him as a beneficiary of kickbacks received to award a defence tender to Augusta Western.
" I have no idea what has happened. Lets have an inquiry into the chopper deal scam, the faster the better", he said.
Tyagi says decision with regard to choppers not made by Air force
After confirming that specifications for choppers that could reach altitudes of 18,000 feet were made in 2003, former Air force Chief SP Tyagi said that the final decision with regard to the procurement was taken outside the Air force.
Tyagi told CNN-IBN in an interview that he had been in touch with the PMO over the specifications of the choppers required, although he strongly denied that he had come under any political pressure with regards to the deal.
Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) SP Tyagi to CNN-IBN: Key quotes
"I am shocked and amazed by the charges against me. Sad day not only for me but my officers."
"Ministry has done its internal inquiry."
"Incorrect to say that requirements were changed in my tenure by air headquarters."
"Changes were made in 2003."
"Requirements were made in 2003. False to say that they were to suit AgustaWestland company."
"The changes were made for good reasons."
"I just want to know what was done by air headquarters. Whether in my tenure or not."
"George Fernandes used to go to Siachen and that is when the 18,000 ft requirement came."
"Cabin height of the helicopter did not suit the SPG."
"In 2003, the government decided to open the competition. We will not go to Siachen and we will need a height 15,000."
"I am not aware of SPG chief meeting AgustaWestland, we have nothing to do with it."
"PMO was involved in 2003, thereafter it was the SPG."
"This is not political, this is professional." (On being asked about Vajpayee and Manmohan)
On relation with Julie Tyagi, Dosca Tyagi: "Yes, they are my cousins. To the best of my knowledge they have nothing to do with defence but that is my knowledge."
"I do not have an explaination on the Italian investigations."
"I want my name to be cleared, let's have an inquiry."
"I am not a political animal, local politics will go on on who is from which nationality." (On BJP accusing Sonia because its a deal done with Italy).
"AgustaWestland is actually an English company."
"We never discuss procurement with politicians."
"There is a whole department that deals with purchases. Of course the chief has the authority but truly the day to day thing is carried out by deputy chief."
"In my tenure i found nothing wrong."
"Whatever my cousins may have done, the accusation is on the height. If it was changed, how the Tyagis came into picture because it was done in 2003 and i was not the chief then."
"Carlo (implicated by Italian authority) has been a family friend of my cousin."
"Something has happened for sure. I don't know if anyone got kickbacks. I am only quoting from newspapers."
"No input on who is to be blamed. I don't like pointing fingers. My system had nothing to do with it."
"There are checks and balances, what has happened is beyond me."
"None of the political bosses were in touch with me. I have not facilitated this deal for nobody."
How long will Congress hide corrupt bribe takers, asks Jaitley
BJP leader Arun Jaitley has slammed the government for 'hiding' those who allegedly took bribes in the AgustaWestland chopper scam.
"The Italian Govt caught the one who gave the bribe.Till when will India hide those who took the bribe?", he was quoted as saying to the media.
Congress welcomes CBI probe
With controversy surrounding the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters, Congress today said nobody can be hanged without proper investigation and welcomed Defence Minister A K Antony's move to hand over the probe to CBI.
"Our Defence Minister has handed it (probe) over to CBI. Had it been NDA government, what they would have done? Can anyone be hanged without investigation?," Congress leader Digvijay Singh said.
He said the case of purchase of AugustaWestland helicopters should be seen in different light.
"Purchase of Westland helicopters was proposed by the NDA regime. Secondly it is the best helicopter available in this sector. Thirdly, it was bought at a price extremely competitive in its sector," he said.
The contract for the helicopters had been signed in February 2010. India had inked the deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries around the President, PM and other VVIPs.
On the allegation of kickbacks paid in the copter deal, Singh said, "Italian government has found certain instances where commission of bribe has been paid for which they have taken action. The moment Government of India came to know, it has set up a CBI investigation. Where is the question of taking any more action."
There are allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal. Singh said, "I will request the BJP to suggest what more can be done in the this because had this situation come during their tenure what they would have done. No person can be hanged or punished without proper investigation and CBI will investigate the case on its own."
Our poor nation bought those expensive helicopters: Kejriwal
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal took a dig at the government, and questioned how our 'poor nation' could buy those expensive helicopters. "The helicopters which even the US found expensive were bought by our poor nation for our VVIPs, " he said.
Won't hesitate blacklisting Finmeccanica, says Antony
Defence Minister AK Antony today asserted that nobody will be spared if found guilty at any stage of CBI inquiry into the allegations bribery in Rs. 3,700 crore VVIP chopper deal. "Everything depends on the CBI inquiry. Whoever is found guilty at any stage of inquiry, we will take strongest possible action. Nobody will be spared,’’ Antony said at a press conference in Delhi.
Based on preliminary inquiry by the CBI in the recent past, the Government has blacklisted six defence firms, he said. Answering queries on the VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, he said ``all options are open.’’
Antony gave enough indications that India would not hesitate in blacklisting Italian giant Finmeccanica and scrap the deal to buy 12 helicopters for ferrying VVIPs including the Prime Minister and President if allegations of bribes in India are proven. "All options are open – blacklisting, cancellation and all other serious action under the integrity pact,’’ he said.
CBI ready to begin probe into graft allegations
New Delhi: CBI will soon begin its probe into the alleged payment of Rs 362 crore bribe in India by an Italian aerospace firm to clear a Rs 3600 crore helicopter deal for ferrying VVIPs.
The agency today received a complaint from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe in the alleged kickback given in the procurement of 12 helicopters produced by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland, CBI sources said here.
A call on whether to conduct a preliminary enquiry or register an FIR would be taken at a high-level meeting scheduled this evening, they said. Sources said the agency, after initiating probe, would approach the Defence Ministry for providing all the material related to the purchase of helicopters to understand whether any specifications were modified to benefit the company.
The sources said since the complaint was received in the morning, it is still in the scrutiny process. In February 2010, India had inked the deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, PM and other VVIPs.
The deal came under the scanner of Italian agencies after allegations of kickback given in India surfaced. The agencies arrested Giuseppe Orsi, the head of Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica on Monday as part of their probe related to international corruption.
It is alleged that Orsi, who was CEO of the company when the deal was struck, was involved in the bribery. Around 50 million euros (Rs 362 crore approximately), about 10 per cent of the deal, were alleged to have been given as bribes to ensure that the company won the contract.
Chopper deal could be second Bofors scam, alleges BJP
Describing the Italian chopper deal as one having the "makings of a second Bofors scam", BJP
today sought to know why the government has not taken any action on the matter till now and said it will raise the issue strongly during the Budget Session of Parliament.
The main opposition also demanded that the helicopter deal should be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine choppers should be stopped till all doubts are cleared.
"This deal raises a serious question. There was one gentleman Ottavio Quattrochhi from Italy who was involved in the Bofors scam. Several attempts were made to protect him. This helicopter company is also from Italy. Was this a factor in no probe being done in the matter for the past one year?" BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Though BJP did not spell out its strategy on the issue, Prasad said the party will raise this matter strongly inside and outside Parliament. "I see the making of a second Bofors in this scam. The
government has not been able to explain why it was silent for one year on this issue despite the details being available in the public domain," Prasad said.
He came down heavily on Defence Minister A K Antony, saying he should have called the Italian Ambassador to discuss the reports of financial irregularities in the Augusta Westland VVIP chopper deal. "Why did Antony not write to the Italian Defence Minister or send a delegation to Italy to get more details?" Prasad said.
BJP demanded that the Rs 3,500 Crore deal be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine of the 12 choppers be stopped till the issue is probed thoroughly.
BJP questions 'suspicious inaction' on part of the government
The BJP is holding another press conference about the chopper scam, questioning why the government took so long to take any action in to the scam. "Why did the Indian govt wait for the Italians to take action? I want to ask the Defence Minister - 'was the Ambassador of Italy summoned to get information?'
He then goes one further, asking if Govt inaction have to do with company being Italian. Clearly a thinly veiled attack on the Congress President!
"First CWG scam, 2G Scam..we demand accountability", he said, adding that "The UPA govt finds a way to get kickbacks on all projects started by the NDA regime."
ED may file criminal case in VVIP chopper deal
With the government ordering a CBI probe, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may also register a criminal case of money laundering to probe allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal from an Italian defence and aerospace firm.
The agency has already been conducting a probe since last year for alleged violation of forex laws in the country in the conduct of this deal.
Sources said the ED will take a call to register a case under the stringent clauses of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) once the CBI files an FIR and also will take in account its ongoing investigation under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
The agency has also gathered some inputs regarding the transactions done to procure 12 VVIP service helicopters produced by Finmeccanica’s subsidiary AgustaWestland in 2010.
The case came to the fore again yesterday after the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company that is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for helicopters to ferry Indian VVIPs was arrested, prompting the government to order a CBI probe.
Chacko asks BJP not to play politics in VVIP Chopper deal
Speaking on the issue of VVIP Chopper deal, Congress leader PC Chacko said that the BJP is politicizing the issue. "No defence deal is done on the spur of the moment. It was initiated in 2002 by NDA. It is not correct to play politics over the issue of Italian chopper deal," he said.
Defending the UPA government, he said, "Italian government never told us about bribery. They only said they were conducting an investigation," he said.