Former IAF chief SP Tyagi was today questioned by CBI for around 10 hours over his alleged links with middlemen in the controversial Rs 3,600-crore Agusta Westland chopper deal during which he was also quizzed about the source of funding for his post-retirement trip to Italy.
It was for the second time in three years that the retired Air Chief Marshal was being questioned in connection with the VVIP chopper deal but it was for the first time he was quizzed after an order of the Italian court on the matter. He was earlier quizzed in 2013.
The Milan Court of Appeals—equivalent of an Indian High Court—has given details of how alleged bribes were paid by helicopter-maker Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch the deal. The order reportedly mentions the name of Tyagi at several points.
Tyagi who has been named in the CBI FIR reached the agency headquarters at around 10 AM but refused to speak to media which posed questions about his role in the alleged corruption in the deal.
“I have told CBI what I had to say. You people(media) are inhuman,” he told reporters in response to questions in the night at the end of his questioning.
CBI sources said that during the probe they came across a trip undertaken by Tyagi to Florence, Venice and Milan in Italy after he retired in 2007. They said it is being probed who accompanied him on the trip and who funded for the hospitality.
The sources claimed that Tyagi was also confronted with response received from Italy on the judicial requests of CBI.
He was also understood to have been asked about the statements of middlemen Carlos Gerosa and Guido Hashke, to Italian authorities, who had purportedly claimed to have met Tyagi on several occasions between 2004 and 07.
Tyagi has denied allegations against him claiming innocence and that the change of specifications, which brought Agusta Westland into contention, was a collective decision in which senior officers of Indian Air Force, SPG, NSA and other departments were involved.
CBI had registered a case against Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen.
The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000m to 4,500m (15,000ft) which put AgustaWestland helicopters in the race for the deal without which its choppers were not even qualified for submission of bids.
CBI sources said the agency has called Gautam Khaitan, a former board member of Aeromatrix and who is also named in the FIR, for questioning on Wednesday while cousins of Tyagi—Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep—have been called later this week.
It is alleged by Italian prosecutors that bribes to clinch the deal were paid through middlemen and routed through a consultancy contract between AgustaWestland and companies owned by middlemen.
Khaitan and the Tyagi cousins have strongly refuted allegations against them.