By Vibhor Kumar-
Agusta westland scam is multi-billion dollar bribery case. It has been alleged that these bribes were paid to middlemen by AgustaWestland chopper manufacture company to clinch the contact of 12 VVIPs chopper.
These chopper were supposed to be used for carrying the President of India, the Prime Minister of India and other VVIPs. The estimated cost of this deal was Rs 3600 crore.
- August 1999- The Indian Air Force proposes to replace Russian MI-8 helicopter with modern chopper for VVIPs conveyance.
- March 2005 – The Ministry of Defence allegedly lowered the flying ceiling 6000 metres (required) to 4500 metres.
- February 2010 – The Ministry of Defence signs the deal with Agusta Westland of 12 VVIP choppers.
- February 2013- Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Finmeccanica ( parent company of Agusta Westland) gets was arrested in Italy.
- March 2013- Indian government ordered CBI investigation into the allegation and hold the deal. CBI registered a case against former IAF Chief, Air Marshal Sp Tyagi and 12 others.
- January 2014 – Indian government cancelled the deal with Agusta Westland.
- April 2016 – A Milan Court of Appeals sentences Giuseppe Orsi to four and half years and Bruno Spagnolin to four years in jail.
- December 2016- SP Tyagi was arrested by CBI for bribery charges.
- September 2017 – CBI filed the first Charge sheet naming former IAF chief SP Tyagi and others.
- January 2018- Italian court acquitted Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolin, Citing the lack of proof.
- December 2018- Christian Michel (middleman) was extradited to India from Dubai.
- January 2019- Dubai-based businessman Rajeev Saxena (co-accused) was extradited to India from Dubai.
- September 2020- CBI filled a supplementary charge sheet.
- October 2020 – Rajiv Saxena ( accused turned approver ) was granted interim bail.
Initial Unfolding of Scam-
After Kargil war, The Indian Air Force realised it needed to replace Russian MI-8 helicopter for security purpose which had proved to be unsafe.
The IAF wrote to Ministry of Defence and proposed that 8 modern choppers are required for VVIP ( the President of India, The Prime Minister of India) conveyance. The IAF’s requirement that the chopper should be able to fly at 6000 meters height.
The UPA made change by increasing the number of helicopter from eight to twelve helicopter, by adding four NON- VVIP helicopter. In 2010 UPA government signed a 3600 crore contract with Agusta Westland for purchase of twelve AW-101 helicopter. Three helicopter were delivered in the year 2012.
In 2013, the Italian police arrested Agusta Westland CEO Bruno Spagnolin and Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi, over charges of alleged bribes to mediators to clinch the deal of VVIP helicopter required by Indian government. Soon after this allegation Indian government hold the deal and ordered CBI investigation.
In march 2013 CBI registered the case against then IAF Chief SP Tyagi and 12 others. The allegation on SP Tyagi was that he had extended favours to Agusta Westland by reducing flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6000m to 4500m that enabled AgustaWestland bag the deal.
In January 2014, Indian government cancelled the Rs.3600 crore deal with AgustaWestland. In June 2014 Indian government have recovered the amount of Rs. 18.18 billion. However AgustaWestland had not returned the entire amount, and kept 106 million euro.
In April 2016, a Milan Court of Appeals sentenced Giuseppe Orsi to four and half years and Bruno Spagnolin to four years in jail on charges of false accounting and bribing Indian officials. In early 2018 Italian court acquitted Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolin, Citing the lack of proof.
At the time of scam, Christian Michel was very active in the Indian defence sector. It was alleged that he had been hired to swing the contract by Agusta Westland. In December 2018 Cristian Michel was extradited from Dubai to India.
The Enforcement Director found that Michel received Rs 225 crore from Agusta Westland as kickbacks to for this deal. When the Agusta Westland scam emerged.
Recent development on this scam-
In January 2019, another co-accused Rajeev Saxena and Deepak Talwar were extradited to India from Dubai. After being brought from Dubai, Saxena was accorded the approver status.
Saxena is alleged to have operated interstellar, a company alleged to have received proceeds of crime worth 12.4 million euro which were routed to influential people, including Indian politicians and officials in favour of Agusta Westland.
In September 2020 CBI filled supplementary charge sheet in Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scandal. In this charge-sheet the name if 15 individual has to come to fore for the first time.