AgustaWestland Case: CBI To Prosecute Ex-Chief Auditor And 4 Others

The Agusta Westland case involves a Rs 3,600 crore contract for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters to be used by top Indian leaders like the Prime Minister and President

Christian Michel is the main accused in the VVIP chopper scandal (Representational)

New Delhi:

Former Comptroller Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma and former Air Vice Marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar are set to be prosecuted by the CBI, pending government sanction, in the AgustaWestland scam case, agency sources said Friday.

The CBI has approached the Defence Ministry for permission to begin proceedings in court against Mr Sharma and Mr Panesar, as well as three others named by the central agency, the sources added.

"Further investigation... revealed the involvement of said officials. We have sought sanction from the Ministry of Defence to prosecute... Once sanction is accorded, the above-named public servants, along with Christian Michel, will be named in the supplementary chargesheet," CBI sources told NDTV.

Despite several attempts at contacting him, Mr Sharma was not available for comment on this matter.

The Agusta Westland case involves a Rs 3,600 crore contract for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters to be used by top Indian leaders like the President, the Prime Minister and other VIPs.

Signed in 2007 by the Manmohan Singh government, the contract was scrapped six years later amid allegations AgustaWestland paid kickbacks in India amounting to Rs 362 crore.

Mr Sharma, who was Joint Secretary (Air) in the Defence Ministry between 2003-2007, initiated the purchase of the helicopters in that role. He approved the purchase in 2010 as Director General (Defence Acquisition).

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A Special Investigation Team of the CBI took over this case in 2016 and filed its first chargesheet against SP Tyagi, a former Air Chief Marshal charged with taking bribes to alter chopper specs, and 11 others in September 2017.

Others involved in the case include Christian Michel, one of three middlemen in the chopper deal, along with Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

Michel, a British national, was arrested in the UAE in 2017 on the basis of an Interpol notice and extradited to India in December 2018.

He is currently in Delhi's Tihar Jail and has been accused by the Enforcement Directorate of getting around Rs 225 crore from AgustaWestland as kickbacks.

Along with Mr Sharma and Mr Panesar, the CBI has also sought sanction to prosecute SA Kunte (Deputy Chief Testing Pilot), Thomas Mathew, Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force) and N Santosh (then Group Captain, IAF).