The Central Bureau of Investigation yesterday arrested the country’s former air force chief S P Tyagi over a scandal-hit deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland to supply high-end helicopters to India.
India suspended the deal in 2013 following accusations AgustaWestland paid bribes to win the contract for 12 helicopters intended for use by the prime minister and other VIPs.
The CBI arrested Tyagi in New Delhi over his alleged role in bribing officials to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.
“An investigation was going on and yes we have arrested him,” Kanchan Prasad, a spokeswoman for CBI said.
The former IAF chief was taken into custody along with his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie Tyagi and a Delhi-based lawyer, Gautam Khaitan.
“They will be produced before a designated CBI court tomorrow,” CBI spokesman Devpreet Singh said.
The €556mn deal is also being investigated separately by Italian authorities, with the boss of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica being arrested in 2013.
Italian prosecutors suspect kickbacks worth about 10% of the deal - €50mn - were paid to Indian officials as bribes.
Indian detectives had raided the home of Tyagi in 2013 as they investigated allegations of bribery.
Tyagi and Finmeccanica have denied any wrongdoing.
India has already received three of the helicopters, intended to be used by such dignitaries as the prime minister and the president, but delivery of the remaining nine has been scrapped.
The deal was signed under the previous Congress-led government led by Manmohan Singh.
Tyagi, his cousins Sanjeev, Rajiv and Sandeep and 10 others, including three European middlemen - Guido Ralph Haschke, Carlo Vlentino Ferdinando Gerosa and Christian Michel - were named in a report which the CBI lodged in March 2013.
Others named in the first information report are the chief executive officer (CEO) of Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt Ltd Praveen Bakshi, chairman of IDS Infotech Ltd (India) Satish Bagrodia and its managing director Pratap K Aggarwal.
Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, then CEOs of the Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, were also named in the FIR.
And so were companies Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd (India) and Aeromatrix India.
Reacting to the arrest, Michel, the alleged middleman in the deal, said he had never met the former IAF chief.
Michel, however, admitted meeting Julie at a party.
“He was introduced to me as a person who was working in the energy sector and an influential person. I was never told formally that the Tyagis were working for Agusta or helping Agusta in the chopper deal,” Michel told CNN-News18 network.
Hitting out at ruling Bharatiya Janata Party over the arrest, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi questioned its timing.
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