The CBI told a Delhi court on Saturday that former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi “inserted” a word in the minutes of a meeting chaired by the then defence secretary in 2005, to favour AgustaWestland in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP helicopter deal. The agency also submitted that Tyagi, during his tenure as IAF chief, made “huge monetary investments in buying agricultural land” which are now being investigated.
Tyagi’s lawyer told that the court that the then PMO, led by Manmohan Singh, “dragged” the IAF chief’s office into the “procurement process” and it was a “collective decision”. “File has moved along several departments. The IAF has nothing to do with procurement. However, the PMO created a situation to make the Air Force chief take part in the procurement. Everything came from the PMO and today they have forged the decision upon him, when the final decision was a collective decision,” he argued.
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“I purchased the agricultural land in 2002. The CBI can check my accounts… I have been called to the CBI office several times over the phone and I have followed the orders. Only in this instance, summons were issued and I was arrested,” Tyagi told the court.
The court sent Tyagi and two other accused — his cousin Sanjeev alias Julie Tyagi and lawyer-businesssman Gautam Khaitan — to CBI custody for four days.
The CBI had sought 10-day police custody of Tyagi, saying they had evidence that AgustaWestland officials had “visited” his official residence and Letters Rogatory (LR) from Italy and Mauritius contained “incriminating evidence” against him.
The agency told the court that “it has received incriminating documents related to the Defence Ministry, which were recovered during a search operation carried out at Guido Haschke’s mother’s residence in Switzerland”.
“On April 1, 2005, there was a meeting chaired by the defence secretary. The then Air Force chief S P Tyagi inserted the words ‘at least twin engines’. During the meeting it was decided that the company which fulfills the criteria of ‘twin engines’ should be awarded the deal. However, when the minutes of the meeting were put up, the word ‘at least’ was added by Tyagi. This was done to accommodate AgustaWestland, as the firm was offering helicopters with three engines. This was done with… approval of Tyagi,” said CBI prosecutor V K Ojha.
“In 2004, the IAF decided that the mandatory operational requirement capability of the helicopter should not be compromised and must be 6,000 metres… However, in 2005, the Air headquarters did a U-turn and agreed to reduce the mandatory service ceiling to 4,500 metres… And it was during the tenure of S P Tyagi that the Air Force conceded to reduce the service ceiling. This was done only to favour Agusta Westland…this is a deep-rooted conspiracy having international ramifications, and his custody is required to unearth the larger conspiracy,” he argued.
“We have received LRs from Mauritius and Italy, from which it has emerged that custodial interrogation of Tyagi is required for confronting him with the incriminating evidence… He also made huge monetary investment in buying agricultural land, which he never declared or told the Defence Ministry (about). This also has to be probed,” said the CBI.
After hearing the submissions, Metropolitan Magistrate Surjit Saurabh said: “I am of the considered view that police custody is required for fair investigation. Having considered the entire aspect…the accused persons be remanded till December 14.”