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CBI names Tyagi in chopper case

New Delhi, Feb. 25: Former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi is a beneficiary of pay-offs in the VVIP chopper deal, says the preliminary inquiry registered by the CBI.

Two cousins of the air chief marshal (retired) — Julie Tyagi and Dosca Tyagi — have also been named.

The preliminary inquiry was registered after the CBI sent two officials, and the ministry of defence a joint secretary, to Italy last week.

The officials returned over the weekend. The CBI and the ministry have obtained documents used in a court in Italy that are said to establish that middlemen were paid kickbacks by AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica so that they could clinch the Rs 3,550 crore deal, sources said.

The agency is pretty sure that apart from Tyagi and his relatives, a few other Indians were involved in the deal. Their names are expected to emerge during the probe.

Last week, CBI sleuths and officials from the defence and external affairs ministries met Italian prosecutors and the judge in the case.

The agency sought details of the kickbacks, especially those paid to Indians. This information has not been provided so far.

However, some details may be shared with the CBI once the local elections in Italy conclude.

Italian investigators said that Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were taken into custody only to prevent them from destroying crucial evidence.

The CBI had earlier appealed to the defence ministry to provide information about the controversial chopper deal but all it got was news clippings from India and Italy.

Defence ministry sources said a preliminary report by the CBI, the report of joint secretary (air acquisitions) Arun K. Bal’s findings in Italy and AgustaWestland’s reply to a showcause notice will be considered before the government decides on the future of the contract.

AgustaWestland has delivered three of the 12 helicopters contracted so far. The defence ministry has put payments to the company on hold after about 45 per cent of the contracted amount was delivered.

Parliament is likely to debate the chopper pay-offs on March 4 where defence minister A.K. Antony is scheduled to give an explanation and announce what the future of the deal will be.

In a reply to the defence ministry’s showcause notice, AgustaWestland managing director Raymond Edwards said the reports of bribery in securing the Rs 3550 crore contract for 12 VVIP helicopters were based on preliminary investigations in Italy that were at a “pre-trial” stage and have “not been tested in court”.