VVIP Chopper scam: Eight Indian mission on AgustaWestland money trail; Tyagi, lawyer Khaitan grilled

New Delhi:To expedite tracking the money trail in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) on Thursday wrote to eight of its missions abroad to send reports about executions of letter rogatory (LR), sent by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Confirming that they had received a request from the CBI seeking to speed up the LRs, or in other words judicial requests, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swaroop said that the missions in Italy, Tunisia, auritius, Singapore, the British-Virgin Islands, the UK, the UAE and Switzerland have been asked to update on execution of LRs.
The CBI sources had earlier said that they won’t be able to further investigate the money trail and ascertain the links till they get a response from these countries. Swaroop said the MEA has once again written to these missions from where the execution reports are pending. “We have impressed upon them the need to expeditiously execute the LRs and to send their corresponding execution reports at the earliest,” he said.

According to CBI sources, so far they have got a complete response from Italy and partial reply from the British Virgin Islands, the UK and Tunisia. It is yet to get a formal reply from the UAE, Singapore, Switzerland and Mauritius. It is also believed that on Wednesday, the former board member of Aeromatrix, Gautam Khaitan, has purportedly admitted to having received payments from middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschkhe in the VVIP chopper deal. He has allegedly admitted setting up IDS Tunisia, a subsidiary of IDS India, the firm which was one among the many through which the alleged bribe was routed by the middlemen from AgustaWestland to other countries, the sources said.

Khaitan, an advocate and a former board member of Aeromatrix – which was allegedly used to route bribe amount, is named in the CBI FIR as one of the accused. The agency had registered a case against former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen. Tyagi was accused of reducing flying ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000m to 4,500m (15,000ft), which put AgustaWestland helicopters in the race for the deal. If not for this, Agusta choppers are not qualified for even submission of bids.

On Thursday, Khaitan was being further questioned by the CBI even as Tyagi, who too was summoned, was grilled.

Meanwhile, Agusta continued to rock Parliament on Thursday too. Congress and opposition parties stepped up the heat on BJP government seeking authentication of documents by Subramaniam Swamy and demanding discussion on alleged GSPC-KG Basin scam.

Raising the issue during zero hour, Congress member Anand Sharma sought to know how Swamy got access to sensitive and confidential files of CBI and ED in the matter.

The House “must know how an honourable member or rather a less honourable member” was given access to sensitive and secret files, which he has refused to authenticate and place on the table of the House, Sharma asserted.

Taking cognizance, deputy chairman PJ Kurien said if Swamy had not complied with his ruling to authenticate all the documents he was quoting from and place them on the table of the House, the rule will take its own course.

“The ruling has to be complied with,” Kurien said.

While Congress members protested, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi stated that Swamy had authenticated and placed the documents on the table of the House.

But this did not stop Congress as Pramod Tiwari claimed that a national TV channel was showing how government agencies were putting pressure through religious missions to get the Gandhi family implicated in Agusta scam.

“Some traitors are taking money from other countries to create disorder here… and destablise the country,” alleged Tiwari.

However, Kurien stopped him saying it was not a question of point of order and disallowed Tiwari.

Separately, Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh, on the question that other defence deals during UPA regime are also under scanner, said that “if there are any deals on which there any question marks, by all means, have them investigated…I don’t think that we have anything to feel defensive about.”