AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper Case: CBI Wants To Prosecute Former Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the union government for permission to charge and prosecute former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma. The top bureaucrat who later went on to become Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was defence secretary between 20111 and 2015.
According to CBI’s chargesheet filed in September 2017, the VVIP chopper scandal caused a wrongful loss of €398.21 million to the Indian government.
The controversy erupted in 2013 when Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland's parent company, was arrested by the Italian authorities over corruption and bribery charges.
High placed Congress politicians and military officials were accused of accepting bribes from AgustaWestland. Under pressure, the then UPA government initiated a probe in the matter.
In January 2014, the Rs 3,600-crore deal with AgustaWestland was cancelled "on grounds of breach of the Pre-contract Integrity Pact and the agreement” by AgustaWestland.
During its term, the Congress-led government was accused of stonewalling the CBI investigation.
Former defence officer Manohar Parrikar also pointed out that the officers serving at the top posts during the time of the deal were later given lucrative posts, like that of Governor and CAG, by the Congress government.
In 2014, a note from Christian Michel to Peter Hullet was recovered in which the former had asked the latter to target people close to Sonia Gandhi to clench the deal.
The list included the names of Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, M Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, M K Narayanan and Vinay Singh.
The note consisted of payments which were divided in four parts carrying initials of "AF" (Air Force) 6 million, "BUR" (bureaucrats) 8.4 million, "Pol" (politicians) 6 million and "AP" (alleged to be Ahmed Patel) to be paid 3 million Euro.
A major breakthrough was the arrest of middleman Christian Michel in December 2018. Then in January 2019, another co-accused Rajeev Saxena and lobbyist Deepak Talwar were extradited to India from Dubai.
The CBI, Press Trust Of India reports, is likely to soon file a supplementary chargesheet which would go into the details of the reported involved of senior public servants and key decision makers.
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