Former Air Force chief SP Tyagi has been remanded to judicial custody till 30 December, along with his cousin Sanjeev alias Julie Tyagi and Delhi-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan. Arrested on 9 December by the CBI in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore deal with AgustaWestland for 12 VVIP choppers, they will be produced in the Patiala House Court for their bail plea hearing on 21 December.
The case was registered in 2013. But after the arrests, the application submitted to the court seeking 10-days police remand had some new allegations.
According to the investigating agency, Tyagi and his associates received 12 percent of the Rs 3,600 crore as kickback for favours granted to the UK-based company. Khaitan is the alleged mastermind of the entire deal.
On 10 December, the CBI told the court that SP Tyagi and his cousin Sanjeev held meetings with the head of AugustaWestland. The agency alleged that Tyagi had purchased acres of land which he didn’t declare to the Income Tax department.
It also added that at the time of the deal, AgustaWestland didn't even have choppers ready for demonstrations.
The CBI said that it had sent requests to eight countries – Italy, UK, the British Virgin Islands, Tunisia, Switzerland, Singapore, the UAE and Mauritius – to get details of the money trail.
The agency also alleged that Khaitan transferred money received from AgustaWestland to Tunisia and then routed it to India. The 10 December custody plea also says that the Tyagi family, including SP Tyagi, continued its association with officials of Finmeccanica (AgustaWestland’s parent company) after his retirement.
It also states that SP Tyagi and Sanjeev Tyagi allegedly met middleman Guido Haschke and Renzo Lunardi, Commercial Executive of AgustaWestland, and others unofficially on private premises. The application mentions the addition of the words ‘at least’ before ‘twin-engined’ in the operational requirements for the VVIP helicopters, which apparently helped AgustaWestland, as they have three-engined helicopters.
After the court proceedings on 10 December, Tyagi spoke to the media and said that “purchasing land is not a crime” and that he is not running away and has always cooperated with the CBI.
SP Tyagi’s lawyer told the court that the arrest was made to shift the focus from demonetisation and said arresting him after three years was “illogical”.
He said that there was no specific purpose to the inquiry. The defence lawyer also asked for proof of the properties allegedly bought by Tyagi. The lawyer said that the chopper deal was a collective decision and not the former Air Force Chief’s alone.
SP Tyagi spoke for himself in the court on 10 December and said that he could account for all his agricultural land purchases. “In this nation, if you’re arrested, you’re arrested. You’re on TV channels,” Tyagi said.
The defence lawyer dragged the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) into the matter for the first time, and said that it was the PMO which asked for a review the service ceilings.
The lawyer said that all documents pertaining to him and his family had already been seized by the CBI and there was no reason to insist on a further CBI custody.
Siddharth Luthra, Khaitan’s lawyer, also questioned his arrest.
If the CBI has completed the investigation, then why didn’t they file a chargesheet and made an arrest? The arrest is nothing but harassment by the investigators (sic).Siddharth Luthra, Gautam Khaitan’s lawyer
Sanjeev Tyagi’s lawyer informed the court that his client had fully cooperated with the investigators. He said Tyagi appeared before the CBI whenever summoned and had also handed over all necessary documents.
The suspects have been booked under Section 120B and Section 420 of the IPC, as well as the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The CBI said they were earlier called to the CBI headquarters for questioning.
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The CBI also added that the total amount of the AgustaWestland deal was Rs 3,767 crore and the alleged bribe amount was 12 percent of this sum.
The CBI said that it decided to arrest the accused after it managed to gather “clinching evidence” against them. Sources said that the arrests were made after the accused evaded questions posed to them by investigators.
The FIR filed by the CBI mentioned that Tyagi allegedly helped in swinging this deal by lowering the service height requirement from 6,000 m to 4,500 m. However, Firstpost reported that the FIR doesn’t mention Tyagi having received any money, but says his cousins received payments from Haschke.
Christian Michel, who was middleman in the AgustaWestland deal, told CNN-News18 that he never met SP Tyagi, but added that the person who introduced him to Julie Tyagi was an influential person. SP Tyagi was questioned a few months ago regarding the alleged payoffs in the helicopter deal that had led to a political war between the Congress and the BJP.
(With inputs from ANI and Firstpost. Additions made by Taruni Kumar.)