New Delhi, June 28 (PTI): The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday questioned West Bengal’s Governor M.K. Narayanan as a “witness” in connection with its probe into allegations of bribery in the Rs 3600-crore VVIP helicopter deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland.
Narayanan, 80, was asked to appear before CBI officers to record his statement in connection with the deal as he was part of the group that had gone into the tendering procedures before purchase of the helicopters, CBI sources said.
Narayanan was the National Security Advisor before being appointed as Governor of West Bengal.
The sources said the CBI required the statement of Narayanan as a witness because he, along with Goa Governor B.V. Wanchoo, had participated in the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications of the helicopter.
Wanchoo, who was then the chief of the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) that guards the Prime Minister, will also be asked to give a statement.
The CBI had sought permission to record the statements of the two governors as part of its probe into the helicopter deal, which was scrapped by the government in December last year following reports of the bribes.
The CBI registered a case against former Indian Air Force Chief S.P. Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and some European middlemen in the case.
The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he had reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter so that AgustaWestland was included in the bids.
Tyagi has denied the allegation against him.
However, this decision was taken in consultation with the officials of SPG and the Prime Minister's Office including Narayanan.
The CBI has alleged reduction of the service ceiling--maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally--allowed the UK-based firm to get into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.
The previous government, of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, had rejected the CBI’s request to question the two governors. The CBI had then approached the secretariat of the President.
The Law Ministry had declined permission saying the two were in constitutional posts and so enjoyed immunity from prosecution under Article 361 of the Constitution.
The agency has put the investigation in this case on a fast-track and questioned several bureaucrats including former Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi and Comptroller & Auditor General Shashikant Sharma who was the then Defence Secretary.
The CBI claims the parameters regarding the height at which the helicopter can fly as well as the flight evaluation were changed in a manner that enabled AgustaWestland to clinch the deal vis-a-vis its competitor Sikorsky.
In April this year, the CBI had examined former Secretary (Security) at the Cabinet Secretariat, Sudhir Kumar, former Inspector General of the SPG, N. Ramachandran, who retired as DGP Meghalaya, and former Special Secretary (Acquisition) in the Defence Ministry H C Gupta.
Kumar was Secretary (Security) during 2004-05. The Secretary (Security) looks after the administration of SPG.