The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today arrested former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, who retired in 2007, his cousin Sanjiv alias Julie Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan in the Rs 3,600 crore Agusta Westland VVIP Chopper deal.
This is the first time that a former service chief has been arrested on corruption charges.
The deal had been frozen by the UPA Government in Feb 2013 and a CBI investigation ordered by then Defence Minister AK Antony over allegations of kickbacks given to middlemen. Antony had claimed that the Government had also confiscated the security deposit of the company. The deal was cancelled by the UPA government in January 2014
The Italian court which held three middlemen guilty of taking money for bribing Indian media and officials also released documents which showed that the middlemen had sought the intervention of the Italian Ambassador in Delhi to intercede on behalf of the company to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, among others.
The CBI today claimed that the former Air Chief had admitted interacting with the middlemen and Finmeccanica officials and that there was evidence that he had helped route the money. The kickback could be around 12% of the total value of the deal, CBI sources claimed.
The ruling BJP had accused ministers and political leaders of changing specifications to favour the company and for accepting bribes. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had claimed on television that he was confident that evidence would be garnered in a couple of months.
The arrest of the former Air Force chief could be a diversionary tactic by a beleaguered Government, on the back foot because of growing resentment over demonetisation. And the arrests on Friday triggered speculation that the Government is paving the way for even more dramatic action by arresting politicians.
With PTI inputs