New Delhi, December 9: Former Air Chief SP Tyagi was arrested today over alleged irregularities in the AugustaWestland VVIP chopper deal scam of worth value Rs 3600 crore was signed when Congress government was in power. Along with SP Tyagi, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also arrested his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan after questioning them for several hours. The former IAF chief has been accused of using his official position for corrupt means. This is first high-profile arrest made by the newly appointed CBI chief Rakesh Asthana. He has been investigating the chopper deal since earlier this year.Also Read - CBSE Class 12 Board Exams 2021: Board Acknowledges Error in Sociology Paper on 'Gujarat Violence', to Take Action Against Paper Setters

By the latest arrest the Congress lead United Progressive Alliance government is wading into deep waters, as another scam has come back to haunt them. Also Read - Punjab Assembly Polls: Akali Dal's Manjinder Singh Sirsa Joins BJP In Presence of Union Ministers

1. What is Augusta Westland? Also Read - Breaking News Highlights: 5 Members of Gang in UP TET Question Paper Leak Incident Arrested

Augusta Westland S.p.A was a helicopter design and manufacturing company, based in the United Kingdom. It was a wholly owned subsidiary of Finmeccanica- the leading industrial group in the high-technology sector in Italy and  one of the main global players in aerospace, defence and security. The company was founded in 2000 after a merger of Finmeccanica and GKN’s helicopter subsidiaries (Augusta and Westland). The company however, became defunct on December 31, 2015. Also Read: AgustaWestland deal: BJP targets Congress, seeks explaination on chopper scam

2. What is the Chopper Scam or Choppergate Scam?

In 2010, the Congress- lead UPA signed a deal worth Rs 3,600 crore, with the company to buy 12 AW101 helicopters for the for the Communication Squadron of the Indian Air Force. These choppers were purchased for the express purpose of flying VVIPs like the President, the Prime Minister and important personalities. On February 12, 2013, however, the deal was frozen after  the CEO of Finmeccanica,  Giuseppe Orsi, was arrested by Italian authorities, on charges of corruption and bribing middlemen to land the deal with India. A probe into the allegations of corruption, was ordered the very next day by the then Union Defence Minister AK Antony and on March 25, 2013, he admitted that irregularitites had taken place and that the CBI was probing the matter.

3. SP Tyagi’s Involvement

Former IAS chief SP Tyagi has been in and out and in again, of the scandal. In 2014, his involvement had been announced by the Italian court investigating the scam. The court had said that he had taken money from Finmeccanica and granted them the deal. But in 2015, the court had acquitted Tyagi, alleging no corruption on the part of Indian officials. However, just recently the Court has taken a 360 degree turn and named Tyagi in the case again. It has been established that Tyagi was responsible for sealing the deal, despite the fact that the ordered helicopters did not meet the requirements of the government. In the bargain, Tyagi pocketed a ‘reward’ of  €10,500,000 (Rs. 78,98,56,725), according to the judgement of the the Milan Court of Appeals.

4. Sonia Gandhi’s involvement

Sonia’s name figured prominently in the case, as the investigators had accessed a conversation, which mentioned her as the ‘driving force behind the VIP’. The conversation took place between three middlemen- Carlos Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guildo Haschke. Out of the three, Michel recently agreed to testify in the case, saying that he is ready to cooperate with the CBI and ED, given that his name is cleared. However, Michel confessed that he has never met Sonia, or a “single Gandhi” in his life.

5. Other prominent personalities involved

Sonia Gandhi’s secretary Ahmed Patel’s name has also figured in the recent judgement. An exchange between the middlemen also mentions the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. But they have not been named in the Court’s judgement; neither is there any mention of their roles in the deal. A note dating back to 15 March 2008 presented in the Italian court  also lists M. Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandez, M. K. Narayanan and Vinay Singh, but again the judgement does not mention them. Also Read: AgustaWestland scam: Subramanian Swamy names Sonia Gandhi, uproar in Rajya Sabha

6. Current Status

(Guisepe Orsi with Bruno Spagnolini; Image Credits: dagospia.com)

As of June 2014, Indian government has recovered a total amount of ₹2,068 crore and has recovered the entire amount of around ₹1,620 (45% of total contract value ₹3600 crore) it had paid to AgustaWestland. An April 2016 judgement by Italian court, sentenced Finmeccanica CEO Guiseppe Orsi and Augusta Westland CEO Bruno Spagnolini to  four-and-a-half years and four years of jail respectively. The duo have been ordered to pay  €7.5 million euros ($8.5 million), which had been decided upon according to the amount that was allegedly paid to them in bribes.

In India, the CBI probe is still going on and no penal action has been taken against either Tyagi or Gandhi. Gandhi has denied all the charges levelled against her, saying that she has nothing to hide. “Where is the proof? They are lying. They are part of a strategy of character assassination which we have known these people indulge in,” Sonia said on Wednesday.