Headline: Tyagi had exalted company in helicopter scam
It could well turn out to be another Bofors
Last Tuesday, the multi-edition daily, The Hindu, led with a news report filed by its Paris correspondent from Busto Arsizio, Milan. The lead headline screamed, “Evidence against persons ‘much above’ Tyagi.” It said that documents seized by the Italian authorities in the AugustaWestland investigations revealed that persons ‘much above’ the former Air Marshal SP Tyagi and his three cousins were ‘implicated’ in the bribery scam.
The former CEO of the Italian armaments giant Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, and the head of its subsidiary, AugustaWestland, Bruno Spangnolini, along with a couple of middlemen are on trial for violating the Italian law prohibiting bribes for procuring business. India had purchased 12 helicopters from AugustaWestland at a cost of Rs 3,600 crores in 2005. Rupees 360 crores was the amount allegedly paid in bribes.
No other paper chose to follow up on the sensational claim emerging from the documents made available by the Italian authorities. More significantly, the unnamed ‘persons much above’ Air Marshal Tyagi had the lead defence lawyer of the main accused, Orsi, dashed off a letter within hours of the publication of the The Hindu report. The letter, published on Thursday, Professor Ennio Amodio said the suggestion about the higher-ups’ involvement ‘is completely unsubstantiated.’ However, paper’s correspondent stood by her report, saying in her rejoinder that Italian “sources did speak to this correspondent about top secret documents from the Indian Defence Ministry contained in the 1,10,000 pages of evidence collected by the Prosecutor’s office. Some of that evidence implicates persons ‘much above’ Air Marshal Tyagi…”
Incidentally, Professor Amodio was also the lawyer of the Bofors bribe-taker, the late Ottavio Quattrochi. That should throw some light on the likely route used by AugustaWestland to bag the Indian order. The Indian authorities had lowered the height specifications from the earlier 6,000 meters to 5,000 meters to enable August-Westland to bag the order. The rest is for you to guess. Of course, it is pure balderdash to think that Air Marshal Tyagi could have done that on his own. A lot more could emerge from the court proceedings in Milan in the coming days. But do not expect most media outlets to follow that story. Still, there will be an intrepid paper or two which will remain on its trail. More power to their elbow.