HomeIndian DefenceAgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam: AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam: All about India's biggest...

AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam: AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam: All about India’s biggest defence scam after Bofors & what SC said about it

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Just as the Supreme Court dismissed the bail plea of Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam case. Michel is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the alleged ₹3,600-crore scam related to the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters.

Michel, who was extradited from Dubai in December 2018, had filed a bail plea arguing that he cannot be charged for offences other than those mentioned in the extradition decree. However, the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra rejected his plea, stating that the matter had been previously addressed.

The court’s decision comes after Michel’s bail pleas were dismissed by the Delhi High Court in both the CBI and ED cases in 2021. The trial court also denied him bail, citing the serious nature of the accusations, the gravity of the offence, and the conduct of the accused.

The CBI has alleged a loss of 398.21 million euros (about ₹2,666 crore) to the exchequer due to the deal signed in 2010 for the supply of 12 VVIP helicopters. The ED, in its charge sheet filed in 2016, claimed that Michel received 30 million euros (about ₹225 crore) from AgustaWestland.What is the AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper Scam?

The AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam is a corruption case where it has been alleged that bribes were paid to “middlemen”, perhaps even politicians, when India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica at an estimated cost of Rs 3,600 crore.

In February 2010, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of the time signed a contract to purchase 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters at Rs 3,600 crore. These helicopters were supposed to be used for ferrying the President of India, the Prime Minister, and other such very, very important people.

The chopper scam came to the fore in 2012 when it was found that several politicians and bureaucrats allegedly accepted bribes to swing the deal. The scam was first uncovered in Italy. In February 2013, Bruno Spagnolini, the CEO of AgustaWestland, was arrested by Italian authorities on charges the company bribed middlemen to secure the deal with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The deal was cancelled in 2014 by the Congress-led government.

Key players in the AgustaWestland deal and charges against them

Former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi: Tyagi was arrested on 9 December 2016 in connection with the case. The CBI has alleged that Tyagi played a role in recommending the reduction in operational ceiling of the helicopters from 6000 m to 4500 m which brought AgustaWestland in the race.

It alleged that the IAF was strongly opposed to changes but when Tyagi became the chief, he recommended these.

Christian Michel: Christian Michel is among the three middlemen (Guido Haschke and Carlos Gerosa were the other two) who were allegedly hired by AgustaWestland to swing the deal in the company’s favour by influencing officials.

CBI has alleged that firms of Michel received about 42.27 million euros for the purpose.

The bribes were allegedly routed through companies of Michel and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the form of multiple contracts through layered transactions to camouflage them.

Michel, extradited to India from the UAE in 2018, has alleged that the CBI team wanted him to take names of the Gandhi family, a claim refuted by the agency.

The AgustaWestland chopper scam, also known as the VVIP chopper scam, is a corruption case involving alleged bribes paid to middlemen and politicians to secure a deal for the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters by the Indian government.

The scandal came to light in 2012 and led to the cancellation of the deal in 2014. Key players in the scam include former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi and alleged middleman Christian Michel. The case has been a subject of controversy and legal scrutiny, with allegations of corruption and influence peddling.

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