AgustaWestland case: Why arrest SP Tyagi and let babus, politicians go scot-free?

It isn't funny that a 'CBI special court' has virtually 'slapped' the CBI while granting bail to Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi (retired) in the AugustaWestland probe. While the CBI had arrested Tyagi accusing him of receiving kickbacks illegally in the VVIP helicopter deal, the CBI special court has observed that the CBI had failed to show when and how much of the alleged bribe was paid to him, even though the investigation had gone on for almost four years. Special Judge Arvind Kumar also pointed out that the allegation that Tyagi's properties were linked to the alleged illegal gratification was not investigated in over three-and-a-half years despite the CBI having seized the documents regarding his properties in 2013, but more than three years and nine months later, no investigation was conducted in this regard.

File image of SP Tyagi. PTI

File image of SP Tyagi. PTI

It may be noted that CBI was given four days custody following his recent arrest, however, the Bureau had it extended. The CBI special court made following important observations: Tyagi retired in 2007 and the CBI's view that he influenced witnesses does not hold water; the present case is based on documents; the accused joined the investigation as and when called by the CBI and has also been interrogated in custody; allegations of whether he received kickbacks, and in what manner he was connected in the alleged conspiracy, can only be looked into during the trial stage; he has been in custody for 18 days. No purpose will be served by keeping the accused behind bars. CBI counsel and additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta opposed Tyagi's bail plea, arguing that they had found "new" evidence to build the case against Tyagi. Here the question is why this “new evidence” could not be shared with the CBI special court, or is it based on the hope that some “new evidence” will crop up with the Italian court reopening the case?

So now the question is that if the CBI did not have sufficient evidence against Tyagi, why was he arrested at this point of time and kept imprisoned for 18 days? Was this a fake "earthquake" warning for the UPA akin to the Congress vice-president’s threat to rock the Parliament? What a terrible shame that despite having exceptionally strong assistance from the Italian courts, who have virtually handed India the case on a plate, only Tyagi and two other accused are questioned and jailed while the bureaucrats, the politicians and the then SPG director involved are not questioned. As someone remarked on social media, "Just imagine what is going to happen to all the other UPA scam cases in the hands of CBI/Supreme Court where there is no external court assistance — actual culprits are going to get off scot-free.”

In the AugustaWestland probe, the following facts already public can hardly be ignored:

One, the helicopters in question were required by the SPG to fly VVIPs.

Two, the requirement of helicopters from eight to 12 was increased by the PMO.

Three, IAF had insisted since 1988 that service ceiling of 6,000 metres was an operational necessity to access all border areas, also reiterated to the defence secretary in January 2004.

Four, under instructions issued by the NSA in March 2005, fresh supplier quality requirements were evolved in consultation with PMO and SPG; a meeting chaired by the defence secretary in May 2005 decided to lower the service ceiling to 4,500 metres. This was obviously later approved by the defence minister — facilitating the purchase of AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters which fly only up to 4,572 metres.

Five, there is no way Tyagi could have lowered the flying ceiling of the required helicopters without the indulgence of MoD, NSA, SPG and PMO.

Six, the then director, SPG (who used to accompany the Congress president during her foreign visits) was present during the so-called trials abroad on 'representational helicopters', based on which the deal for importing AugustaWestland helicopters was signed.

Seven, middleman Guido Haschke's diary revealed the jotting of apparent beneficiaries.

So logically, the then defence minister, NSA, defence secretary, SPG director and officials of the PMO and Ministry of Defence should have been probed by now along with Tyagi, but no move has been made on this front as yet. Significantly, on 14 December, the Supreme Court ruled in another case that was just based on uncorroborated evidence of statements and records of hawala dealers or corporate diaries that investigations can’t be undertaken, never mind prosecution. So, hasn’t Tyagi been arrested because of similarly frivolous reasons — statements by middlemen?

The million dollar question is: Will the government of the day take up the gauntlet to smash what is generally referred to as the 'Hamam'?

The 1993 NN Vohra Committee Report while establishing the nexus between governmental functionaries, political leaders and others with various mafia organisations and crime syndicates, enabling the development of significant muscle and money power to operate with impunity, had finally opined that "leakage about the linkages of crime syndicates, senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the Centre could have a destabilising effect on the functioning of government". So there was no follow-up to this report.

Of the scores of defence scams since Independence, how many politicians and bureaucrats were probed, arrested, prosecuted? Of course, VK Krishna Menon had the distinction of initiating the first one — the Jeep Scandal of 1948, wherein he as India’s High Commissioner to the UK signed a deal with a company in England to supply 200 jeeps (bypassing all government regulations) for the Army costing Rs 80 lakh, but only 155 jeeps were supplied. The case was closed in 1955 and Jawaharlal Nehru appointed Menon as defence minister. And despite the ignominy of 1962, we have a Krishna Menon Marg in his name in the heart of the Capital.

On a different wavelength but hardly surprising, Francois Gautier writes on Facebook:

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army


Updated Date: Dec 27, 2016 15:59 PM

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