VVIP chopper probe: ED tracks cash trail; summons Tyagis, Emaar MGF's boss

ED had traced two payments from a company based in Tunisia made to Tyagi brothers camouflaged' in the form of consultancy fee.

New Delhi: Widening its probe in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal, the ED has begun a trail of "cash" which is suspected to have been paid as alleged kickbacks for the purchase of 12 helicopters from UK-based AgustaWestland.

The financial probe agency has set the ball rolling with the second round of questioning of witnesses and accused in connection with the scam and is likely to quiz former IAF Chief S P Tyagi tomorrow, provided his recording of statement with the CBI ends on Wednesday.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which has been probing the money laundering angle in the case, has summoned cousins of Tyagi after his round of questioning is over besides realty firm Emaar MGF's boss Shravan Gupta.

Gupta's name cropped up after it was found that the alleged middleman Guido Haschke was an independent director of the firm between September to December 2009. Company officials said Gupta will cooperate with investigate agencies.

The ED, in its charge sheet filed last year in a court, had claimed to have detected flow of alleged kickbacks sent from abroad to companies of the accused Gautam Khaitan and cousin brothers of the former IAF chief.

Officials said the flow of funds is being probed as it is alleged that it was quid pro quo to make AgustaWestland eligible to get selected for the final delivery of the 12 AW-101 helicopters to India for VVIP flying duties.

The ED, as per the charge sheet, had traced two payments of Euro 1,26,000 and another two lakh Euros from a company based in Tunisia and others made to Tyagi brothers "camouflaged" in the form of consultancy fee and its probe had found that the said "remittances correspond with the developments taking place in alteration/reduction of mandatory servicing ceiling of the helicopters."

The ED claimed that "besides these two remittances, the Tyagi brothers including the then IAF Chief Tyagi, also received some amount of cash from Haschke and Gerosa."

The ED probe found that the alleged middlemen Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, in collusion with the Tyagi brothers Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep "managed to make inroads in IAF through Air Chief Marshal Tyagi and thereby could influence and subvert the consistent stand of IAF regarding mandatory service ceiling of the helicopters."

This ground was used by CBI and ED to register their respective FIRs in the case and brought out the alleged illegal involvement of the ex-IAF chief and his cousins in perpetrating the scam.

The agency, sources said, suspects the tainted cash could have been used by the accused for making certain high-value payments and purchase of costly items.

It is also expected that a joint team of the two agencies could be authorised by the government to soon travel to few overseas locations to track the trail of funds, both through wire transfer and cash.

Sources said while the agency has filed its first charge sheet in the case last year in November, it is now looking to establish the further "proceeds of crime" of the alleged scam in order to prepare a water tight case against other accused and even those named earlier in its prosecution complaint. "That includes both cash and wire transfer funds routed through multiple or single overseas locations," they said.

It has recently begun a second round of questioning of the accused in the wake of the recent judgement of a Milan (Italy) based court which sentenced Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica's former chief Giuseppe Orsi and the former CEO of the firm Bruno Spagnolini on corruption charges in the sale of a dozen AgustaWestland helicopters to India. The Milan court order also mentions the name of Tyagi at several points.

ED will also go through the contents of the order as soon as it gets translated into English from Italian, they said, adding there could be few more attachments of the accused in the case after the agency detected some more 'benami' properties.

Apart from filing a charge sheet, the ED has also attached assets worth Rs 11 crore belonging to the cousins of Tyagi and Italian national and another alleged middleman in the case Christian Michel James.

All the three middlemen have been notified by the two agencies under the Red Corner Notice of the Interpol also early this year.

While Tyagi has denied all the allegations against him, Emaar MGF has said it has no "business links" with Rahul Gandhi's aide Kanishka Singh while Haschke was an independent director for an "extremely brief period".

As BJP MP Kirit Somaiya dragged Singh's name into the controversy involving alleged kickbacks paid for the VVIP chopper deal, Emaar MGF termed the allegations as "baseless and incorrect."

( Source : PTI )
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