CBI to question Andhra guv over chopper deal

New Delhi : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will soon record the statement of former Director, Intelligence Bureau and Governor of Andhra Pradesh E.S.L. Narasimhan as witness in connection with allegations of bribery in purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from Ango-Italian firm AgustaWestland, reports PTI.

CBI sources said Narasimhan, along with then NSA M.K. Narayanan and then SPG Chief B.V. Wanchoo, attended the March 1, 2005 meeting where the decision to reduce service ceiling –maximum height at which a helicopter can perform optimally –was taken making AgustaWestland eligible for the deal.

Recently, CBI team has questioned Narayanan and Wanchoo as witnesses for its probe into allegations of bribery of Rs 360 crore in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland.

The sources said the need to record statements of Wanchoo and Narayanan was felt as both had participated in the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications of the chopper.

They said since Narasimhan was also present in the meeting, his statement was also crucial to get additional inputs about the reasons for reducing service ceiling.

CBI has alleged that reduction of the service ceiling allowed the UK-based company to get into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

CBI had registered a case against former Indian Air Force Chief S.P. Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case.

The allegation against the former air chief was that he had reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter so that AgustaWestland was included in the bids. Tyagi has refuted the allegation against him.

CBI claims the parameters regarding the height at which the helicopter can fly as well as the flight evaluation were changed in a manner that enabled AgustaWestland to clinch the deal vis-a-vis its competitor Sikorsky.

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