CBI custody of IAF ex-chief Tyagi, two others extended to Dec 17 (Roundup)

New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) A court here on Wednesday extended till December 17 the CBI custody of former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S.P. Tyagi and two others in the Rs 3,767-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal case.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge Arvind Kumar allowed the probe agency to quiz Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and Delhi lawyer Gautam Khaitan for three more days after the central agency said the accused are required to be confronted with incriminating evidence that has emerged during investigation.

The trio was arrested on Friday. On Saturday, they were remanded in CBI custody till December 14.

Earlier on Wednesday, the CBI had sought seven-day extension in custody of Tyagi and others, saying their custodial interrogation is necessary in the interest of justice as it has yet to unearth the entire conspiracy.

The central agency said a confidential document of the Indian government was seized from the residence of alleged middleman and Italian national Guido Haschke’s mother.

The CBI said the document regarding a proposal to amend the VVIP helicopters’ configuration was seized from Haschke’s mother’s house in Switzerland and it needed to be probed.

The document pertains to the proposal to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres after which AgustaWestland became eligible to supply a dozen helicopters for VVIP flying duties.

Tyagi — the first former chief of any wing of the Indian armed forces to be arrested — and others were allegedly involved in irregularities in the procurement of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from Britain-based AgustaWestland.

In February 2005, senior officials of the Italy-based Finmeccanica and Britain-based AgustaWestland, which is a subsidiary of the former, met Tyagi and discussed issues related to the service ceiling of the VVIP helicopters, the CBI said.

Countering the CBI’s submission, Tyagi’s counsel said the meeting was not illegal as they met at an event in February 2005.

The CBI alleged that between 2005 and 2007, Tyagi invested crores of rupees in property and his questioning will help reveal his source of income.

Tyagi’s counsel Menaka Guruswamy said the properties were bought legally from his hard-earned money.

Defence counsel accused the CBI of tarnishing the image and reputation of Tyagi, 71, a decorated war hero who served the nation in two wars in 1965 and 1971 and a winner of various military awards.

Senior lawyer Sidharth Luthra and lawyer Pramod Kumar Dubey defended Khaitan and said that the CBI had failed to disclose any new material for questioning their client as he had already disclosed the details of money transection before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which is probing a separate money laundering case.

The probe agency told the court that crucial information was collected from three countries — Italy, Switzerland and Mauritius — via Letters Rogatory and the accused are required to be confronted with it to unearth the larger conspiracy in the deal.

The CBI has alleged that the words “at least twin engine” were inserted in the amendment proposal in 2005 for procuring VVIP helicopters to bring AgustaWestland within the eligibility criteria. IT added that the changes were made deliberately as AgustaWestland helicopters had three engines and a service ceiling of 4,500 metres.

Claiming innocence in the case, the former IAF chief said that he had nothing to do with the deal.

The CBI alleged that a conspiracy was hatched by the accused persons to help AgustaWestland win the chopper contract by making changes in the operational requirements, and Italian nationals and middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke were in constant touch with Tyagi’s cousin to influence the bidding. They also accessed crucial information.

All the accused — persons and companies included — were booked for criminal conspiracy and cheating, and for violating the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

–IANS

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