Former IAF Chief S P Tyagi is said to have told the CBI Tuesday that he met senior officials of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland (AW), while negotiations for the purchase of VVIP choppers were going on.
He told CBI interrogators that he had met Chief Operating Officer of Finmeccanica, Georgio Zapa, in Delhi on February 15, 2005.
At the time, Tyagi was over one month into his tenure as Air Chief Marshal and specifications for the purchase of VVIP choppers had not been changed yet.
“He had denied meeting any Finmeccanica official earlier. However, during sustained questioning and on being confronted with evidence of his meetings, he accepted he had met Zapa,” said a CBI official.
The agency is in possession of the visitor’s register as proof of the meeting.
As reported by The Indian Express on April 29, the verdict of the Milan Appellate Court clearly says that Tyagi met several AW officials in the presence of his cousins when he was IAF chief. And that even before he became chief, Tyagi was aware of the change in specifications of the helicopter — lowering of height ceiling — and is said to have passed on that knowledge through his cousins and via middlemen to AW officials.
CBI sources said Tyagi also told interrogators about companies that he and his wife own together. The companies were identified as Meghanu Realtors, Anuras Properties and Shavan Enterprises, sources said.
This was Tyagi’s second consecutive day of questioning at the CBI headquarters. According to CBI sources, the companies were allegedly incorporated after 2011— four years after Tyagi retired from service. But it was also one year into the signing of the chopper deal — the contract with AW for the supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters was signed on February 8, 2010.
“We are looking into the financials of these companies and where the money came from and why were these companies set up,” a CBI official said.
The official said the agency was also looking at Tyagi’s international travel details to ascertain where he travelled before and after the deal was signed and for what purpose.
Tyagi, who was named in the CBI case registered in March 2013, was questioned for nearly nine hours on Tuesday.
According to government records, deliberations to alter specifications of the VVIP chopper — flying ceiling of 6,000 m and a cabinet height of 1.8 metres — started from March 2005 and some senior officials of the IAF, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defence Ministry had participated.
These deliberations continued till September 2006 and suggestions to reduce the flying ceiling were accepted, which brought Finmeccanica’s subsidiary AW’s helicopter in contention for the deal to sell 12 VVIP choppers to India.
Tyagi has denied allegations against him, saying the change in specifications was a collective decision in which senior officers of the IAF, SPG, NSA and other departments were involved.