VVIP chopper deal: Queries to 11 countries, Enforcement Directorate, CBI wait for replies

              CBI and ED also want UK national and alleged middleman James Christian Michel to be extradited to India. . Central Bureau of Investigation

The CBI and Enforcement Directorate, probing alleged corruption in the supply of 12 helicopters to India, have almost completed the “domestic part” of the investigation, but are awaiting leads from abroad to go further.

Sources in the two agencies said they were waiting for replies to their letters rogatory sent to several countries to piece together the financial trail of alleged bribes paid in India.

Watch Video | Agusta Westland: Why Is It A Big Deal Politically Now?

CBI and ED also want UK national and alleged middleman James Christian Michel to be extradited to India.

The agencies have so far depended on evidence and documents available from people in India involved in the deal, which they said are yet to produce “prosecutable evidence” against the accused or establish the alleged bribe money trail.

Read: Govt says bribe-giver convicted, will identify taker, Sonia says do the probe

Italian authorities have shared 1.5 lakh documents related to the deal and the alleged bribes. These, CBI sources said, “are helpful”. It is through these documents that the CBI hopes to make its case against former Air Chief S P Tyagi and others.

The CBI filed an FIR in the case on March 14, 2013 after a preliminary enquiry. The FIR named Tyagi and 12 other individuals as accused, besides four companies — Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix.

Read: We banned AgustaWestland, NDA opened door again, says Congress

Individuals named in the FIR include Finmeccanica officials Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, the Tyagi family, alleged middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, advocate Gautam Khaitan, formerly associated with Aeromatrix, and its CEO Praveen Bakshi.

The FIR was filed on the basis of documents the CBI received from Italy and files from the Ministry of Defence which it said “indicate criminal conspiracy to make alterations in the requirement of helicopter specifications which suited AgustaWestland”.

Read: VVIP helicopter deal: Behind the moving parts

Over the next few months, searches were conducted and several names cropped up — those questioned included former Governors E S L Narasimhan, M K Narayanan and B V Wanchoo, and Satish Bagrodia, brother of former Union Minister Santosh Bagrodia.

The CBI alleges Indian officials were paid bribes of Rs 362 crore to swing the deal in favour of the Anglo-Italian firm. The agency claims that during the tenure of S P Tyagi, the IAF “conceded to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres” with his approval, which allowed AgustaWestland to swing the contract.

The CBI enquiry also found that bribes were allegedly paid through a complex web of companies and middlemen based in Italy, UK, Tunisia, Mauritius, Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, Switzerland and the UAE. Letters rogatory have been sent to these entities. BVI and Tunisia, sources said, have “partially replied”.

Although Christian Michel is said to be in Dubai, CBI sources claimed he moved to the UK recently. “That’s our information,” an official said, adding that an extradition request has been sent to the UK.

Read: Judgment not against us…hang me if they find anything against me, says Ahmed Patel

The ED registered a case against 21 individuals and entities, and arrested lawyer Khaitan in September for “not cooperating with the probe”. It filed a chargesheet against five individuals and entities in November that year. This chargesheet, filed against Khaitan, his wife Ritu, alleged middlemen Gerosa and Haschke, and Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix, is the only one in the case. Khaitan is now out on bail.

The ED has made a provisional attachment of properties worth Rs 11 crore.

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“We too are studying the evidence submitted in the Italian court. Some of the documents are still being translated from Italian to English. We have also asked Ministry of Defence to get a copy of the judgment of the Milan Court of Appeals. We will see how it can be of help to us,” a senior ED officer said.

The agency too has sent letters rogatory to Tunisia, Italy, UK, Switzerland, UAE, Mauritius, Israel, Finland, Singapore and Denmark. According to ED sources, however, Michel is still in Dubai.

 

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