Two former governors — M K Narayanan and B V Wanchoo — have informed the CBI probing the Rs 3,546 crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal that a decision to decrease flying altitude for selection of choppers in principle was taken in 2003 when the NDA government was in power.
While recording of his statement, Wanchoo informed the CBI about a meeting held by top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2003 in which it was decided in principle to have a “realistic operational requirement” after consulting the elite Special Protection Group guarding the PM, said sources.
This was followed by a letter to the IAF headquarters and the Defence Ministry in November and December 2003 for having a relook at the purchase of VVIP helicopters and encourage competition, sources added, giving details of Wanchoo’s statement.
For the first time, the CBI examined the governors when they were in office. The two were part of a March 1, 2005, meeting in which a decision was taken to reduce “service ceiling” (the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres.
During the questioning spread over three hours, Wanchoo explained the rationale for the decision and also said that the National Security Adviser in the former NDA government, Brajesh Mishra, had favoured lowering of service ceiling in 2003.
The former SPG chief said that the same decision was reiterated at the March 2005 meeting, the sources added.
He told CBI that the previous regime had taken the decision in principle, keeping in mind the need to encourage competition as well as to change the rules framed for purchasing VVIP choppers in 1970s.