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Mar 07, 2013 at 10:04am IST

Chopper deal: CBI to continue questioning IAF ex-chief SP Tyagi

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will question Air Force former chief SP Tyagi and his cousins for a second day on Thursday in connection with the Agustawestland chopper scandal. A preliminary inquiry report was filed last week which named 12 people.

The CBI also questioned his cousins Julie and Docsa Tyagi on Wednesday. The questioning is to continue on Thursday as well. The questioning follows an Italian probe report that alleged that defence major Finmeccanica paid kickbacks to the Tyagi brothers to clinch the deal.

Tyagi, who is the first ever Air Chief Marshal in the history of the Indian Air Force to face a CBI probe, reached the agency headquarters at around 3 pm and was quizzed for nearly four hours. His cousins including Julie and Docsa Tyagi reached the CBI office at around 11.30 am and faced a number of questions about their alleged association with European middlemen - Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschkhe. They were also brought face to face with the former Air Chief, sources said.

The former Air Chief denied all the allegations against him and contended that laid down procedures were followed for the deal for 12 VVIP helicopters, the sources said. During questioning, he also claimed that no illegal gratification was received by him in the deal and that he never tried to influence it, they said.

The sources said role of Tyagi in modifying specifications for helicopter is still an issue of probe and nothing conclusive has been established so far. Meanwhile, sources said the Preliminary Enquiry(PE) of the agency registered by it on Februrary 24 is about to be completed and it is likely to convert it into a regular case by filing an FIR in this connection.

The sources said if the agency finds enough material to book SP Tyagi in its FIR, it would be done under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act as he is the only retired government official in the list of 11 suspects and four companies.

The cousins of former Air Chief earlier faced number of questions about their business relations with Chandigarh-based firm Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech which are under agency's scanner for alleged routing of bribe money from Mauritius and Tunisia in the cover of payments for engineering contracts. The sources said agency has already questioned executives of Indian arm of Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech.

Gerosa and Haschkhe have been accused by the Italian investigators of payment of illegal gratification to swing the chopper deal in favour of AgustaWestland. In his probe report, the Italian prosecutor had said that Gerosa and Haschkhe had close contacts with former Air Chief's family, particularly his three cousins - Julie, Docsa and Sandeep.

It had claimed that Haschkhe and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, managed to change the tender details, modifying the 'operational ceiling' from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet altitude, thus making AgustaWestland eligible to take part in the tender process. The report also said that the duo managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine, thus

facilitating AgustaWestland helicopters, the only ones which had three engines, swinging the deal in its favour.

The deal came under the scanner 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 the helicopters was arrested, prompting the government to order a CBI probe. The CEO of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested by Italian investigators in connection with the case.

The CEOs paid the middlemen through a consultancy contract between AgustaWestland and Gordian Services Sarl an amount of 400,000 Euros (about Rs 2.8 crore) of which 100,000 Euros (Rs 72 lakh) were paid cash to the Tyagi brothers (Julie, Docsa and Sandeep), the report said.

With Additional Inputs from PTI