CBI forms SIT to probe VVIP chopper scam, loan default by Vijay Mallya

10 June 2016

With no end to investigations in alleged corruption in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam and the loan default by liquor baron Vijay Mallya.the, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the two cases.

The CBI had earlier questioned former IAF chief SP Tyagi in connection with its probe into bribery charges in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

Tyagi, who is accused of receiving kickbacks through middlemen from the Italian firm AugustaWestland bidding for a deal with India for supply of VVIP choppers, had reportedly visited Florence, Milan and Venice after retirement.

The SIT will be headed by additional director general Rakesh Asthana - an officer said to be handpicked by the team of Prime Minister Narendra Modi - and it will report to the director of the agency.

Asthana, a 1984 batch police service officer of Gujarat cadre, headed the state Special Investigation Team that probed the burning of Sabarmati Express in Godhra in February 2002. He was also associated with the probe into the fodder scam in Bihar.

The agency, however, denied the change has anything to do with the efficacy of the earlier team.

It has also denied that Asthana was brought in so that agency chief Anil Sinha could recuse himself after criticism that he attended a meeting linked to the acquisition of the VVIP choppers, held at the Prime Minister's Office in 2004. At the time, the officer was part of the Special Protection Group.

The team will help fast track the investigation into the VVIP chopper scam, trying to pin down the beneficiaries of the kickbacks and ascertain the chain of fund flow.

Recently an Italian court has convicted the former heads of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland. The court found irregularities committed by Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland in the sale of 12 VVIP helicopters to India.

The Rs3,600-crore deal, struck by the previous UPA government, was allegedly clinched after paying hefty bribes. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said AugustaWestland was favoured at "every stage of the acquisition process.

The special team will also probe cases related to alleged diversion of loans of thousands of crores of rupees taken by Kingfisher Airlines to foreign accounts.

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