Two cousins of former Indian Air Force Chief SP Tyagi used shell companies and banking routes to launder Rs five crore of bribe money received in the VVIP chopper deal, the CBI has alleged in its supplementary charge sheet which has also named as accused Giacomino Saponaro, the then Managing Director of AgustaWestland International Ltd. The CBI has named 15 entities (individuals and companies) in its supplementary charge sheet, filed in a special court, which primarily focuses on the money trail of the bribe paid to swing the Rs 3,600-crore deal for 12 helicopter in favour of AgustaWestland which was not in the primary race because of 6,000 metres operational ceiling set for the helicopters to be used to ferry VVIPs including the Prime Minister, the President, the Vice President and the Defence Minister.
The supplementary charge sheet was filed on Friday night, nearly three years after the first charge sheet by the SIT under the then Special Director Rakesh Asthana, naming former IAF Chief SP Tyagi as accused in the scam. The court will hear the matter on Monday.
According to the CBI probe into the money trail of the bribe, SP Tyagi’s cousins — Sandeep and Sanjeev Tyagi — through their New Delhi based company Neel Madhav Consultants Pvt. Ltd had acquired a Kolkata-based company Mainak Agency Pvt. Ltd. in 2009 to launder Rs five crore in kickbacks received through banking channels using shell companies and fake bank accounts to camouflage the transactions. Tyagi brothers allegedly acted in collusion with other accused–Narendra Kumar Jain and Rajesh Kumar Jain of Kolkata–who created the shell companies, and Sunil Kothari, then Managing Director of Om Metals Infotech Pvt Ltd who allegedly opened fake accounts in different banks.
The agency has alleged that Tyagis gave Jains and Kothari Rs five crore in black which was routed back to them as clean money through purported business transactions. The CBI has alleged that it has intercepted conversations between middlemen Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Gerosa to establish the allegations that Agusta Westland had paid bribes to Sandeep Tyagi.
The conversation allegedly paints a picture of Sandeep Tyagi as a reliable man having deep contacts in New Delhi, officials said. Giacomino Saponaro, the then Managing Director of AgustaWestland International Ltd, has also been named as an accused.
The CBI has charged the accused under Indian Penal Code sections of criminal conspiracy (120B), destruction of evidence (201), cheating (420) and forgery (471) among others and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act. In its supplementary charge sheet, the CBI has alleged that Christian Michel James, one of the middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal already named as accused in first charge sheet, had allegedly paid Rs 97 lakh to his associate KV Kunhikrishnan, a former GM of Westland Support, to get documents related to procurement process which were passed on to the company.
James who was extradited from Dubai in December, 2018 had allegedly used services of Kunhikrishnan for procuring the documents pertaining to the procurement process for which Rs 97 lakh were paid to him as consultancy charges, the agency has said. These documents were passed on to the company and were recovered during searches at the premises of another European middleman Guido Ralph Haschke by Swiss authorities, they said.
The agency has further alleged that Praveen Bakshi, PK Aggarwal, then Managing Director of IDS Infotech Ltd and Rajeev Saxena, Director, Interstellar Technologies Ltd, Mauritius, through their respective companies had facilitated in transferring the kickbacks from AgustaWestland. Other accused advocate Gautam Khaitan (named in first charge sheet) and his employee Deepak Goyal allegedly prepared fake invoices and sent mails for transferring the said kickbacks through IDS Tunisia and Interstellar Technologies Ltd and other companies.
In its charge sheet, the CBI has named as accused Sandeep Tyagi, Praveen Bakshi, PK Aggarwal, the then Managing Director IDS Infotech Ltd, and the company, Narendra Kumar Jain and Rajesh Kumar Jain of Kolkata, and Sunil Kothari, the then Managing Director of M/s OM Metals Infotech Pvt. Ltd. It has also named KV Kunhikrishnan, former GM of Westland Support Services Ltd and an alleged associate of middleman Christian Michel James, Rajiv Saxena, the then Director of Interstellar Technologies Ltd and the company, and Deepak Goyal Ltd., New Delhi (through its Director Sandeep Tyagi); M/s Mainak Agency Pvt. Ltd., earlier at Kolkata, now based in New Delhi (through its Directors Sandeep Tyagi and Sanjeev Tyagi as accused. In its first charge sheet filed before Special CBI Judge in 2017, the CBI had named former IAF chief SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev alias Julie and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the bribery case.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italy-based Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal. In its first charge sheet, the CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of 398.21 million euro (approximately Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euro.
Besides Tyagi, the agency had also chargesheeted retired Air Marshal JS Gujral along with eight others including European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel, Guido Haschke, former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini and former Finmeccanica Chairman Giuseppe Orsi. The CBI had alleged that Khaitan was the ”brain” behind how the bribe money reached India and several firms, through which the money travelled, came into existence and that Sanjeev was known to alleged European middleman Carlo Gerosa.
SP Tyagi, who had retired in 2007, his cousin Sanjeev and Khaitan were arrested by the agency in connection with the case. These accused are currently on bail. The agency had registered a case against Tyagi and 12 others, including his three cousins and five foreign nationals, in connection with the VVIP chopper scam.
The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he had reduced the flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000m to 4,500m (15,000 ft) so that AgustaWestland could be included in the bids. Tyagi had, however, denied the allegations, saying the decision was taken in consultation with the officials of the Special Protection Group and the Prime Minister’s Office. The agency has been continuing the investigation.