VVIP chopper scam: CBI yet to get full info on money trail from 8 countries contacted
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not received complete responses in any of the Letter Rogatories (LR’s) it sent to eight countries to seek information on money trail related to the infamous AgustaWestland scam.
According to official sources, the probe agency has sent eight LRs, which are basically judicial requests, since 2013 and has received “partial information” from six countries. Two of the eight countries have not even sent partial information even after the probe agency registered an official FIR on March, 2013.
According to CBI officials, the probe agency during its investigation, that will enter its fourth year in March next year, sent LRs to Italy, Tunisia, UAE, Singapore, Mauritius, British Virgin Island, UAE and Switzerland. Excluding Singapore and UAE, six countries have sent a “partial execution report” which means that if the probe agency had sent 10 questions seeking information related to the AgustaWestland deal, only some of the queries have received a response.
Official sources told DNA on Thursday that investigators probing the Rs 3,726 crore chopper scam have sent multiple reminders to the authorities in the eight countries requesting them to send out information about the scam. The latest reminder was sent to Mauritius which sent a response in November this year however the response too was a partial execution report.
“Its a massive investigation and a major part of the probe involves accessing documents and data lying in various countries. When a probe such as AgustaWestland spreads to multiple countries, coordinating with authorities of those countries can be time consuming,” a senior CBI official told DNA, adding that authorities abroad have been cooperating with the probe agency so far.
The CBI made its first arrests in the case on December 9 when it took into custody former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the case related to procurement of 12 AW VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA-2 regime.
According to the FIR, the CBI contended that in 2005, the former air chief abused his official position to change the consistent stand of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the service ceiling of the VVIP choppers from 6000 metres to 4500 metres.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with AgustaWestland over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks.
The CBI alleged that the bribes were routed through multiple companies in India and abroad and involved middlemen and other individuals, including British national Christian Michel and Italian nationals Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. Companies including Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Mohali-based IDS Infotech, Aeromatrix, IDS Tunisia and IDS Mauritius have also been named in the 2013 FIR by the CBI.
The accused were first sent to CBI custody twice by a Delhi court. The CBI in its argument seeking custody claimed that crucial information was collected from three countries — Italy, Switzerland and Mauritius — via LRs and the accused were required to be confronted with it to unearth the larger conspiracy in the chopper deal case. Interestingly, authorities in Italy too has sent partial execution report, sources said.