VVIP chopper scam: CBI seeks permission to quiz West Bengal, Goa governors, say sources

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VVIP chopper scam: CBI seeks permission to quiz West Bengal, Goa governors, say sources

CBI has reportedly asked the Law Ministry if it can question West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan and Goa Governor BV Wanchoo

New Delhi:  The Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI has reportedly asked the Law Ministry if it can question West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan and Goa Governor BV Wanchoo in its investigation into alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3600-crore VVIP helicopter deal.

The government had earlier this month terminated the deal for 12 helicopters alleging that AgustaWestland, the British subsidiary of an Italian company contracted to supply the helicopters for use by the President, Prime Minister and other VIPs had breached an integrity pact by allegedly paying bribes to Indian officials.

CBI sources said Mr Narayanan, who was then the National Security Adviser or NSA and Mr Wanchoo as head of the elite Special Protection Group or SPG, were part of meetings where specifications for the helicopters were changed. The change in "service ceiling" (or the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from the 6000 metres suggested Air Head Quarters to 4500 metres had allowed AugustaWestland to enter the race.

So far the CBI has named former Air Chief SP Tyagi, his cousins and several others in its First Information Report or FIR.

It has now reportedly written to the Law Ministry and attached documents to show that Mr Narayanan and Mr Wanchoo were part of the team of senior officials who cleared the changes.

As Governors, Mr Narayanan and Mr Wanchoo have legal immunity and the CBI will need the President's assent to question them. However, if the law ministry clears the CBI request, it might not need to seek the President's nod.

Last year, an NDTV investigation showed that top officials from the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Defence, the SPG and the Indian Air Force, including the two governors, held about a half-a-dozen meetings between November 2004 and September 2006 to finalise specs for the helicopters.

They reportedly agreed that the new helicopters needed only to conform to the specification of being able to fly at 4500 metres. It was also argued that this would help avoid a single vendor situation. 

When bids were invited in September 2006, three companies, including AgustaWestland, responded. A Russian company later withdrew, refusing to sign the integrity pact. 

AgustaWestland was finalised after two years of evaluation. The contract was signed in February 2010.


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