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2013 Chopper scam

One of the latest scam in India is the Chopper scandal which is better known as Choppergate. The Chopper scam is all about the politicians and the defence officers against whom charge sheets have been filed for accepting illegal money from Augusta Westland in clearing an agreement to supply 12 Agusta Westland AW101 helicopters to India. During February 2010 a deal was signed to buy 12 Agusta Westland AW101 helicopters. The chopper scam involves a huge amount of about Rs.3600 crores which was revealed to public on February 12, 2013. This scam came into light only when Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Finmeccanica was arrested by Italian authorities for bribes allegedly paid to secure the sale of 12 helicopters to India.

Finmeccanica is the parent company of Agusta Westland with whom the contract had been signed. According to the report given by the investigations done it says that three persons played a major role in the scam and they were all in much close association to the then Air Force chief Shashi Tyagi. By all their means they bended the rules in the tender to get the contract signed for Agusta Westland. Thus after the CBI investigation they filed charge sheets against the former IAF chief and 12 others who were claimed for cheating and law breaking stratagem in the helicopter deal worth Rs.3600 crores. The FIR was filed on March 13, 2013. CBI claims that the Air Force chief Shashi Tyagi is the main accused in the chopper scam and to be named in corruption or criminal case. According to the FIR statement the names of other persons who were involved in the scam were the brother of former Union minister Santosh Bagrodia, Satish Bagrodia and Pratap Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of IDS InfoTech in the case. Apart from the Defence people there are lots of other Indian politicians who are accused for getting bribes in the chopper scam involving the buying of 12 Agusta Westland AW101 helicopters.

These helicopters were to perform VVIP duties for the President of India and other important state officials. According to a report given by an Italian prosecutor the political secretary, Ahmed Patel to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi is also claimed to have received illegal money from this deal. A statement which was submitted by the Italian prosecutors in the Italian court on March 15, 2008 strongly states that Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi is the driving force behind the VIP chopper purchase. The key advisors in this deal who are supposed to have assisted Sonia Gandhi are the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, M. Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandez, M. K. Narayanan, and Vinay Singh. Though this is strongly objected by Sonia Gandhi and her team, the then Defence Minister of India A.K. Antony confirmed on March 25, 2013 that fraudulent activities has taken place in the helicopter deal and lot of illegal money has been taken by the government and political officials.

The then Defence Minister A K Antony very clearly and strongly declared that lot of money has been taken by the ministers and the military officials for cracking the deal of delivering the said number of helicopters by Agusta Westland. The Central Bureau of Investigation is working with effort to unreveal the heads behind the scandal. However the arrest of few people was done only when the news was disclosed regarding the scam in the helicopter deal by A.K Antony, the then Defence Minister of India. Once the news of the scam was disclosed, the CBI got deep into the case and started to untie the knots behind the scam. The CBI laid down the first precursory enquiry on 25th February in 2013. The result of this enquiry suspected the list of 11 persons involved in the bribe deal of helicopter where the main accused was S. P Tyagi, the former Chief of Indian Air Force along with his few cousins and with the names of the involvement of four companies. Finally the first incident report was filed against the following people and four different firms. They are namely S.P Tyagi former Air Chief Marshal of Indian Air Force, three of his brothers named Docsa, Juli and Sandeep, Former Union ministers Santosh Bagrodia's brother Satish Bagrodia, Managing Director and Chairman of IDS Infotech, Pratap Aggarwal.

The FIR also included the names of four companies that were Finmeccanica and Italy based company, Agusta Westland a UK based company and Aeromatrix and IDS InfoTech in Chandigarh. The next step was that an investigation was started by the Joint Parliamentary Committee as a result of a motion initiated by Rajya Sabha on 27th February 2013 by UPA-II government. This investigation team involved 30 members of Joint Parliamentary Committee. This motion was able to be initiated only after the opposition parties like JDU, CPI, AGP, BJP, Trinamool Congress and TDP walked out. It was stated by the leader of the opposition party headed by Arun Jaitely that the Joint Parliamentary Committee conduct a debate. Arun Jaitely also stated that there were too many legal issues which were associated to the case like the dismissal of the formally accused foreigners and the cross questioning of the people who are charged with or on trial for the crime while in custody.

It is said that the Joint Parlimentary Committee was not given enough power to do such activities and in fact many people requested for the intervention of Supreme Court. There are also other sources like Devender Goud, Nama Nageswara Rao and few other MPs of TDP who strongly state with facts that Anil Kumar who was the son-in-law of the brother of late Chief Minister Dr. Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy had a major role in the Agusta Westland helicopter scam. They also say that there are evidences to prove this which can be submitted only to the CBI. We all know about the death of Dr Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy when he was reported to be missing on his travel by the helicopter near Nallamala forest range. But unfortunately a day later on 2nd September in the year 2009 it was found that the scattered piece of the helicopter and the people who were on board were all dead on the cliff of Rudrakonda hill located 40 nautical miles from city of Kurnool. This news was flashed only after the confirmation was got from the Prime Ministers office.

This has also led to the question and investigation of 21 civil helicopters which was bought during the period of 2005 to 2013 worth of Rs.7000 crores from Agusta Westland. It was during this investigation another information came to light stating that Agusta Westland has been doing the business of selling its civil helicopters to India via Sharp Ocean Investments Limited that was endorsed by the twin brothers Nayan and Nakul Jagjivan. Another deal which went through Sharp Ocean Ltd. was the purchase of A-109 Power helicopter of Agusta Westland for the use by VVIP's by Chhattisgarh government who had paid an extra amount of Rs 65 lakhs. Finally in January 2014, the 3,600 crores worth deal with Augusta Westland in Italy was called off. Thus the termination of the deal involved in the buying of helicopter which took place in 2010 was due to the report submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The termination on this deal was called off after a serious meeting between the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister AK Antony in New Delhi. The government cancelled the contract "on grounds of breach of the Pre-contract Integrity Pact and the agreement by AWIL (AgustaWestland International Ltd)" .Thus finally this deal was closed in February 2013, after a thorough assertion that the higher officials both from the defence field and political line had siphoned off Rs 360 crores which was paid as bribe. Once the contract was called off, India encashed the amount of 2.4 billion Indian rupees ($39 million) made by the firm as bank guarantee in the Indian banks earlier in 2014. Similarly it also requested the Italian government to do the same but this was not taken into consideration by the Italian court and India is planning to appeal against the Italian courts' order.

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