Chopper deal: AgustaWestland ex-official claims firm hosted S P Tyagi in Milan in ’07

The purported correspondence was shared in court to establish the close connection between Michel and the firm.

Written by Manu Pubby | New Delhi | Updated: May 3, 2016 3:01 pm
Government sources said there is no evidence available on whether the officer visited Italy while in service. Government sources said there is no evidence available on whether the officer visited Italy while in service.

A former top official of tainted helicopter firm AgustaWestland has told an Italian court that Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi was hosted in Milan by the top management of the company in 2007 when he was the chief of the Indian Air Force.

But defence lawyers are expected to strongly reject this claim during a hearing on Thursday and contend that the officer was never in Italy on the dates mentioned.  Tyagi, who retired on March 31, 2007, did not respond to calls from The Indian Express seeking comment. Government sources said there is no evidence available on whether the officer visited Italy while in service.

More clarity is expected on Thursday when defence lawyers question  Agusta’s former senior vice president for international business, Giacomo Saponaro, who made the claim Tuesday. Saponaro is being questioned in the case that 51 million euros were allegedly paid as bribes to bag the deal for 12 VVIP choppers for the IAF.

On Tuesday, Saponaro told a court near Milan that Tyagi was hosted by the then Agusta CEO Giuseppe Orsi, a key accused in the case who was arrested and released on bail last year. Saponaro claimed that Orsi took Tyagi to a fancy theatre performance and also hosted an expensive dinner for him in early 2007.

Tyagi is named as an accused in the Italian case and is also being investigated as an accused by the CBI that has registered a case into the scandal.

Saponaro told the court that Orsi took the then IAF chief to the Teotro alla Scala, one of the most famous opera houses in the world located in Milan. After the performance, Saponaro claimed Tyagi was taken for a fancy dinner at the restaurant of the opera house, the Biffi Scala.

However, Saponaro added that as far as he knew, there was no discussion on business during the dinner or the performance. Saponaro claimed the expenses for the evening were borne by the Anglo-Italian company. Indian rules do not permit officers to accept favours that involve monetary considerations while on official tours abroad.

The court hearing also saw investigators produce as evidence reports published in The Indian Express in 2012 about the chopper deal. The articles were said to have been sent via fax by Dubai-based British middleman Christian Michel to his contacts in AgustaWestland in December 2012. The purported correspondence was shared in court to establish the close connection between Michel and the firm. Michel had been given contracts worth over 30 million euros by Agusta in the days corresponding to the Indian deal and they have allegedly been found to be bogus.

One document produced in court was a purported fax of December 2012 from Michel to then Agusta CEO Bruno Spagnolini and contained reports published in The Indian Express on the VVIP chopper deal.  The reports were about the investigation into the scandal and said the Indian defence ministry had found out the technical specifications for the tender had been significantly modified to facilitate the entry of Agusta into the race for the deal.

FULL COVERAGE: AGUSTAWESTLAND DEAL

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    Ajit Panwar
    Feb 6, 2014 at 6:39 am
    It's such a shame that Indian Express is publishing unsubstantiated reports and maligning the name of our defence services and a retired Chief. Responsible reporting is all about getting facts right and despite getting a confirmation from government agencies that SP Tyagi never traveled to Italy as the Chief, the publication chooses to make such a blatant lie a headline news. Speaks volumes about the quality of reporting and the desperate need to create sensational news at whatever cost.
    Reply
    1. A
      Ajit Panwar
      Feb 6, 2014 at 6:39 am
      It's such a shame that Indian Express is publishing unsubstantiated reports and maligning the name of our defence services and a retired Chief. Responsible reporting is all about getting facts right and despite getting a confirmation from government agencies that SP Tyagi never traveled to Italy as the Chief, the publication chooses to make such a blatant lie a headline news. Speaks volumes about the quality of reporting and the desperate need to create sensational news at whatever cost.
      Reply
      1. L
        luuke
        Feb 6, 2014 at 4:50 am
        Tyagi the chor......
        Reply
        1. L
          luuke
          Feb 6, 2014 at 4:50 am
          Tyagi the chor......
          Reply
          1. P
            Purush
            Feb 6, 2014 at 10:47 am
            Why is the govt. silent on it? We are talking of the visit of Indian Air Force chief. Surely the Indian ambador in Italy and the Commercial attache of the Indian emby would be in picture. How come all this is being talked in the realm of 'ifs' and 'buts'? Is there an attempt to save the ex Air Force chief or is it to save someone else by crucifying the ex Air Force chief?
            Reply
            1. P
              Purush
              Feb 6, 2014 at 10:47 am
              Why is the govt. silent on it? We are talking of the visit of Indian Air Force chief. Surely the Indian ambador in Italy and the Commercial attache of the Indian emby would be in picture. How come all this is being talked in the realm of 'ifs' and 'buts'? Is there an attempt to save the ex Air Force chief or is it to save someone else by crucifying the ex Air Force chief?
              Reply
              1. V
                Vijay Ranade
                Feb 6, 2014 at 12:33 am
                We indians are ashamed to note that such incidents have taken place and the same is being investigated by our CBI. The least we expect that this investigation is taken to logical conclusion and not left in between like Bofors.
                Reply
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