What lies behind AgustaWestland Chopper Scam

What is the scam all about?

  • In February 2010, the then ruling Congress-led UPA Government sign a contract with the AgustaWestland of UK to buy 12 AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force for Rs 3,600 crore. The aim was to have choppers to fly our VVIPs like the President, PM, and other senior officials.
  • Although, in February 2013, the Government decided to put the deal on hold, after the arrest of  Bruno Spagnolin, CEO of AgustaWestland and Guiseppe Orsi, chairman of the Italian parent company Finmeccanica on the charges of bribing 3 middlemen to secure the deal with the Indian Air Force.
  • In 2014, the Italian court investigating the chopper scam named former chief of the IAF, SP Tyagi in the scam, stating that he was bribed by Finmeccanicato sign the deal with AgustaWestland.
  • However, in 2015, the Italian Court acquitted Tyagi, stating that there was no corruption by Indian officials.
  • In the second biggest Defence controversy following the Bofors Scam, then PM Manmohan Singh,UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and former chief of Indian Air Force SP Tyagi has been put to questioning.

How is SP Tyagi connected to the scam?

  • The AW 101 choppers couldn’t make the cut after flight evaluation because they couldn’t fly at or above18,000 ft, while that was the key requirement of the Indian Air Force as urged to the Defence Ministry.
  • A CBI report said that prior to Tyagi being appointed as Air Force chief, the IAF had ‘’vehemently opposed’’ the lowering of the altitude requirement. But this changed just after Tyagi was appointed the chief and the IAF “conceded to reduce” altitude requirements, allowing AgustaWestland to re-enter the bidding process.
  • In recent investigations by the Milan Court of Appeals, particularly in its 225-page judgment, Tyagi’s name appeared more than once. The judgment said, “So, in the absence of contrary indications, it must be concluded that the reward bestowed to ‘Tyagi family’ (including three of his cousins) for their work in support of AW in relation to the race of the Government (of) India for military helicopters amounts to €10,500,000.”

How is Sonia Gandhi involved in the Scam?

  • The conversations between the three bribed middlemen, namely: Carlos Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guildo Haschke — have mentioned ‘Mrs Gandhi’ as being the ‘driving force behind the VIP’ and her close aides Ahmed Patel and Pranab Mukherjee — the latter is referred to as being the ‘British High Commissioner’.
  • In a letter dated 15 March, 2008, Christian Michel wrote to Peter Hulet, the then head of India region sales and liaison for AgustaWestland, saying “Dear Peter, since Mrs Gandhi is the driving force behind the VIP, she will no longer fly with MI8 … Mrs Gandhi and her closest advisers are the aim of the High Commissioner, senior adviser Prime Minister Manmohan Singh obviously the main figure, then there’s Ahmed Patel Secretary”.

The Progress on the probe so far: In a letter dated 15 March, 2008, Christian Michel wrote to Peter Hulet, the then head of India region sales and liaison for AgustaWestland, saying “Dear Peter, since Mrs Gandhi is the driving force behind the VIP, she will no longer fly with MI8. Mrs Gandhi and her closest advisers are the aim of the High Commissioner, senior adviser Prime Minister Manmohan Singh obviously the main figure, then there’s Ahmed Patel Secretary”.

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Tanvi is a Pharmacy Consultant by profession and a true traveller by character. She is a vivid writer and loves to write about Health, Lifestyle, Travelling and Shopping. Her hobbies include watching football, reading books, listening to music and travelling.