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Mar 26, 2013 at 01:13pm IST

Defence Minister admits there was corruption in VVIP chopper deal

New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony has admitted there was corruption in the AugustaWestland chopper deal. Speaking in Kochi, the Defence Minister did not name those involved. But he said those involved in the corruption will be brought to book.

He said the investigation is at a crucial stage. "Someone has taken money (in the chopper deal). The corrupt will not be spared," Antony said in Kochi.

The Defence Ministry had last week got the 'contract' between AgustaWestland and alleged middleman Christian Michel regarding the controversial VVIP helicopter Rs 3,600 crore deal with India. The 'contract' was provided by the Anglo-Italian firm to suggest that there was no wrongdoing in the deal, sources said.

However, what remains crucial is the role of former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi in the deal. In its FIR in the case earlier this month, the Central Bureau of Investigation had named Tyagi.

SP Tyagi helped in swinging the VVIP chopper deal in favour of Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland by lowering the service height from 6000 metres to 4,500 metres, the CBI's FIR states. The FIR, however, doesn't mention Tyagi having received money in the deal.

Sources alleged that reduction of service ceiling - maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally - allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to come into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

CBI alleged that middleman Haschke through his Tunisia-based company Gordian Services Sarl entered into several consultancy contracts with AgustaWestland from 2004-05 onwards and "almost on back-to-back basis he also made consultancy contracts with the Tyagi brothers (Tyagi's cousins)," the sources said.

Under the cover of these contracts, Haschke allegedly sent Euro 1.26 lakh and two lakh to Tyagi brothers. "Besides these two remittances, Tyagi brothers also received some unquantified sum of money from the middlemen (Haschke and Gerosa). The inflow of remittances to Tyagi brothers and softening of IAF's stand on service ceiling of the helicopter closely match in terms of time," the FIR said.

According to the FIR, "Haschke and Gerosa managed to send Euro 5.6 million through Mohali-based IDS Infotech and Chandigarh-based Aeromatric Info Solutions private limited to India and kept the remaining amount out of about Euro 24.30 million received from AgustaWestland with themselves in the account of IDS Tunisia".

"A portion of this amount was sent to India through Mauritius and hawala route in order to pay kickbacks in India for swinging the VVIP helicopter deal in favour of AgustaWestland," it said. CBI also alleged that AgustaWestland managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine and eventually succeeded in getting the contract for supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP Helicopters from the Defence Ministry mainly due to softening of the IAF on service ceiling after Tyagi took over as its Chief.

The agency alleged that out of total Euro 51 million kickbacks paid by AgustaWestland, British middleman Christian Michel was paid about Euro 30 million. Two new names, which were not part of the agency's preliminary enquiry, have also been included in the FIR. They include brother of former Union Minister Santosh Bagrodia, Satish Bagrodia, and Pratap Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of IDS Infotech respectively, they said.

Six companies including Italy-based Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Mohali-based IDS Infotech, Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix, IDS Tunisia and IDS Mauritius have also been booked by the CBI in its FIR, CBI sources said.

CEO of Aeromatrix Praveen Bakshi and former Finmeccanica Chairman Giuseppe Orsi, former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini and legal advisor and former board member of IDS Infotech - Gautam Khaitan are also named as accused, they said.

All the accused have refuted allegations against them. CBI has alleged that Khaitan, Bagrodia, Aggarwal, Bakshi facilitated the middlemen for bringing bribe money to India.

(With additional information from PTI)