Our investigation in AgustaWestland deal is independent, very strong: CBI

Picture for representation (IANS)

New Delhi, Jan 8 : The CBI on Monday said its investigation in the multi-million dollar AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal case during UPA government is “independent and very strong”.

The central agency’s remarks came after an Italian appeals court in Milan on Monday acquitted Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica’s former chief Giuseppe Orsi and former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini in connection with the case.

“The case in which an Italian court today (Monday) acquitted Orsi and Spagnolini was investigated by Italian Police itself. The accused were earlier convicted by a trial court in Milan. Now, the Italian Police have options to appeal in highest court. We have investigated independently in the case and our case is very strong,” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal told IANS.

The Milan court cleared Orsi and Spagnolini on the basis of insufficient proof in the charges framed against them.

In December 2016, Italy’s highest court had ordered a re-trial of the case, after the former executives of the Rome-based group were found guilty on corruption charges related to a 560 million euros ($672 million) contract to supply a dozen helicopters to New Delhi.

A judge earlier that year had sentenced Orsi to four and a half years in prison for corruption and falsifying invoices and Spagnolini to four years in jail.

The CBI on September 1 last year filed chargesheet in the Rs 3,726 crore AgustaWestland chopper case against Orsi, Spagnolini, former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev, former IAF Vice Chief J.S. Gujral, advocate Gautam Khaitan, and three alleged European middleman — Christian Michel, Guido Haschke, and Carlo Gerosa.

Tyagi, who was the Indian Air Force chief from 2004 to 2007, his brother Sanjeev and Khaitan were allegedly involved in irregularities in the procurement of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from Britain-based AgustaWestland.

They were arrested in December 2016 by the agency in connection with the case. Currently, they are out on bail.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, has alleged that Tyagi and other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help the manufacturer win the contract. The FIR mentioned charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, and under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The CBI said the company was favoured in lieu of illegal gratification accepted through different companies in the name of consultancy services.

Tyagi, the CBI alleged, took bribes of several crores of rupees through middlemen and a complex route of companies in several countries from AgustaWestland to change the specifications of the contract — reducing the operational flight ceiling from originally proposed 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres and bringing down the cabin height to 1.8 metres.

The CBI probe allegedly revealed that several payments were made to the Tyagi brothers by the European middlemen as bribery.