Wednesday, February 13, 2013

India: Helicopter purchase scam: Vajpayee PMO tweaked deal in 2003, claims former air chief

Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 13, 2013
First Published: 21:37 IST(13/2/2013)
Last Updated: 02:53 IST(14/2/2013)
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Former air chief SP Tyagi, whose name surfaced as a bribe-taker in the Rs. 3,760-crore VVIP chopper deal, claimed on Wednesday that tender parameters were changed by the NDA regime at the behest of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s PMO in 2003 — before he took over as the air chief — to favour 
Finmeccanica of Italy.
Italian investigators have alleged that Tyagi was bribed through his cousins to change the tender requirements to help the company secure the contract for 12 AgustaWestland helicopters.
This makes the situation even murkier as the BJP planned to corner the government in the budget session.
Tyagi's defence comes a day after defence minister AK Antony asked the CBI to probe the Italian authorities' allegation that Finmeccanica had bribed its way — paying more than Rs. 450 crore — into the chopper deal for its UK-based unit, AgustaWestland.
On Tuesday, Finmeccanica chief executive Giuseppe Orsi was arrested on corruption charges, while AgustaWestland chief Bruno Spagnolini had been put under house arrest. The prosecutors also moved appropriate authorities to extradite two alleged middlemen who live in Switzerland.
Highly placed sources said India had already paid more than Rs. 1,300 crore to the Italian company and received three aircraft so far. But the debate may force the government to stop the delivery of the remaining nine helicopters. Antony said, "We will take serious action that may include cancelling the deal."
Tyagi said, "No changes were made in the helicopter requirements when I was the air chief from 2004 to 2007... I am innocent. These allegations are totally baseless. The deal was signed in 2010 whereas I retired in 2007."
On his cousins Julie, Dosca and Sandeep Tyagi being named by Italian investigators, he denied having any business links with them. But he admitted that he had met Carlo Gerosa, one of the alleged middlemen in the deal, at his cousin's place although he had no contact with him.
"I have met Carlo at my cousin's place. But when you say you have contact with him, then the answer is no. The entire process of evaluation, trials and contract took place after I had retired," he said.

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