Updated: September 12, 2020 7:59:40 am
The CBI has sought prosecution sanction from the government to chargesheet former Defence Secretary and Comptroller and Auditor General of India Shashi Kant Sharma and former Air Vice Marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar in the AgustaWestland helicopters deal case.
Sharma, who was joint secretary in the Ministry of Defence when the Rs 3,600 crore contract was being discussed, and Panesar are among five individuals whom the agency wants to prosecute.
The others are former deputy chief test pilot S A Kunte, Wing Commander (Retd) Thomas Mathew, and Group Captain (Retd) N Santosh.
Sources said the CBI is ready with a supplementary chargesheet in the alleged case of corruption, popularly referred to as the VVIP chopper scam, against middleman Christian Michel. Investigators have found evidence against Sharma and the four Indian Air Force officers, and have accordingly sought sanctions, they said.
A note recovered during searches in Switzerland had a mention of “JS Air”, along with the initials of several people. This note, an alleged “budget sheet” prepared by Michel, had also found mention in a court in Milan which was hearing the case.
The Milan court said in its order that the initials perhaps denoted designations of officials under various heads of “AF” and “Bur”. The same note mentions “AP” under the head of “Pol”. The court order described these heads as “Air Force”, “Bureaucrats”, and “Politicians”. Against each head, there are figures in Euros.
Against “AF”, the figure is Euro 6. Against “Bur”, it is Euro 8.4, and against “Pol”, it is Euro 15/16.
The initials mentioned under “AF” include “Dch”, “PDSR”, “2FTT”, and “DG Maint”. Under “Bur” are mentioned “DS”, “JS Air”, “AFA Air”, “DG Acq”, “CVC”, and “Auditor gen”.
According to CBI, the deal for which technical requirements were changed to help AgustaWestland qualify, had been brokered by Michel and two other middlemen, Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke. While Gerosa and Haschke were allegedly “handling” the family of former IAF chief S P Tyagi, Michel was dealing with officials from the Ministry of Defence.
In 1999, the IAF had floated a proposal for acquisition of 12 VVIP helicopters to ferry top government functionaries. The over Rs 3,600 crore contract was given to AgustaWestland in 2010.
There were, however, allegations that technical specifications had been tweaked — including lowering the service ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 m to 4,500 m — to help AgustaWestland qualify and win the bid, for which bribes were allegedly paid.
The CBI filed an FIR on March 14, 2013, after a preliminary inquiry. The FIR named Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Tyagi and 12 others as accused, apart from four companies. These individuals included members of the Tyagi family and three middlemen — Michel, Gerosa and Haschke. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) too began investigations under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
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