New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) Probe into the AgustaWestland chopper kickbacks scam has gathered steam with the CBI focussing on the money trail of over 50 million euro (more than Rs 360 crore) spread across seven countries and the British Virgin Islands.
The central investigation agency targeted the 50 million euro money trail after it got evidence from Italy in the form of a compliance report of the Letters Rogatory (LR) it had sent earlier.
The CBI had sent LRs to seven countries, including Italy, Tunisia, Britain, Switzerland, the UAE, Singapore and Mauritius and the British Virgin Islands earlier this year.
The LR is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for judicial assistance and taking evidence.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sources said that Italy was the only one to file complete compliance. The British Virgin Islands and three countries — Tunisia, Britain and Switzerland — have partly complied with the CBI’s LR.
“CBI is conducting necessary follow-up action with British Virgin Islands and the three countries, as well as Italy.”
The CBI is in touch with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Singapore and Mauritius which are yet to respond. The CBI has asked them to fast-track their responses.
The CBI needs help from these countries to connect the money trail in the alleged kickbacks paid for the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal with the government of India.
The CBI has sought the Ministry of External Affairs help to expedite the process.
The source said that a two-member CBI team was in Italy in early July on a four-day visit in connection with the probe into the money trail. “All issues relevant to the probe were discussed with the law and police officials there.”
The sources said they have information that “lots of money” were transferred to the account of IDS Infotech Tunisia from some bank accounts in Italy. The money was later sent to other countries.
“We suspect the money was part of the alleged kickbacks and it was transferred by AgustaWestland as bribe,” said the source.
The agency has been probing the case since March 2013 after filing an FIR against the then Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S.P. Tyagi and 13 others, including his cousins — Sanjeev Tyagi, Rajeev Tyagi and Sandeep Tyagi — and European middlemen Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel.
The chopper deal scam resurfaced after an Italian court in April this year indirectly referred to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh among others in connection with the deal.
Tyagi is accused in Italy and India of helping AgustaWestland win the chopper contract by reducing the flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)