VVIP chopper scam: Timeline of SP Tyagi's alleged involvement

Former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi arriving at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi on Monday,in connection with alleged corruption in the 3,600 crore AgustaWestland choppers deal. Photo: PTI
Former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi has found the wreckage of the AgustaWestland chopper deal hanging around his neck like the proverbial albatross. 

On Monday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) examined Tyagi in connection with alleged corruption in the euro 556 million (currently Rs 4,195 crore) deal.

Tyagi is scheduled for another round of questioning by the agency on Tuesday. 

Additionally, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also issued summons for Tyagi last month and he is reported to have been asked to "appear in person" and meet the investigating officer some time this week. 

Official sources said the summons to Tyagi have been issued under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED had registered a PMLA case in this regard in 2014 and named 21 people, including Tyagi, in its money laundering FIR.

Here is a short timeline of Tyagi's alleged involvement and how things have progressed. 

1) First meeting: 

According to reports, it was in 2004 that a representative of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland's parent company, first met Tyagi, who was then the IAF vice-chief.

2) Tyagi's involvement deepens: 

According to an agency report, just months after the government announced that Tyagi would be the next IAF chief, in January 2005, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, the two out of three alleged foreign middlemen in the scam, met him again

Tyagi, the report adds, went on to meet the two middlemen the very next month during an air show in Bengaluru and in 2006, right after becoming IAF chief, Tyagi met them again, this time at a cousin's office and home in Delhi

It was during his meetings with these middlemen that Tyagi changed the specifications of the prospective VVIP chopper. 

3) Tyagi's Italy visits: 

Tyagi's visits to Italy, twice after his retirement, are also under the scanner of the CBI. 

Tyagi has told interrogators that he travelled to Florence, Milan and Venice, in Italy, in 2008 and 2009, after his retirement in 2007. 

According to reports, it has not been ascertained whether he met any of the alleged middlemen in the scam during these trips. 

4) The initial rumblings: 

According to a Times of India report, the investigating agencies have found that Tyagi was in Milan, Italy, in 2012, allegedly to meet Haschke and Gerosa. 

Tyagi's Monday interrogation has thrown up more details about his trips and meetings. 

According to the ToI report, during his 2012 Milan trip, Tyagi was "really agitated" about the probe being conducted by Italian authorities into the matter. 

Citing documents shared with India by Italy, the report says that Tyagi, referred to as "Giuli", was in Haschke and Gerosa's company at the Milan-Malpensa airport on March 25, 2012. 

5) The lid is blown off: 

On February 12, 2013, the Italian police arrested Giuseppe Orsi, the head of defence group Finmeccanica SpA, the parent company of AgustaWestland, on a warrant alleging that he had paid bribes to win the Indian VVIP chopper deal contract, reported Reuters

This, and the subsequent Indian and Italian investigations into the matter, spelt the beginning of Tyagi's troubles. 

6) Tyagi's name pops up: 

In March, 2013, the CBI said that it had found evidence against Tyagi that suggested that he had extended favours to AgustaWestland by changing specification requirements for the VVIP choppers. The agency registered a first information report (FIR) against Tyagi, besides 12 others.

The FIR also named three of Tygai's relatives — Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep. 

Even as the CBI registered the FIR, reports said that the agency's preliminary inquiry had revealed one of the middleman in the deal, Haschke, had entered into several consultancy contracts with AgustaWestland through his Tunisia-based company Gordian Services Sarl. Between June 2004 and March 2005, he made two remittances – of euro 126,000 and euro 200,000 – in close succession, to Tyagi's brothers, in the name of “consultancy contracts”.

7) The ED turns on the heat: 

In September of 2015, the ED attached assets worth about Rs 7 crore alleged to be in the name of Tyagi's cousins.

Sources said that the properties attached under the provisions of the PMLA are located in and around the national capital region and the estimated book value of the assets is about Rs 7 crore. 

8) AgustaWestland and Tyagi back in focus: 

In April this year, the Milan Court of Appeals — equivalent of an Indian High Court — gave details of how alleged bribes were paid by helicopter-maker Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch the deal.

According to an Indian Express report from April, 2016, the Italian Court of Appeals has observed that there are “unmistakable indications regarding corruption of an Indian officer”.  

The observation pointed at then Air Chief Marshal Tyagi. 

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