Sonia’s Bofors? The VVIP Helicopter Scandal Explained.
In 2010, the then UPA government had signed a contract to purchase 12 AgustaWestland helicopters for the exclusive use of VVIPs at a cost of Rs 3,600 crores. These helicopters were to be operated by the Indian Air Force.
In 2013, the deal was put on hold by the government following the arrest of the CEO of Agustawestland Bruno Spagnolini on charges that they bribed middlemen to secure the deal with the Indian Air Force.
In 2014, the deal was cancelled by the Congress-led UPA government with AgustaWestland citing integrity as a reason.-
AgustaWestland is accused of using the services of Christian Michel, a British Consultant to bribe officials and politicians for facilitating the deal.
In 2008, he sent a note to AgustaWestland officials instructing them to “target” the closest advisers of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to win the contract.
This note has been recovered by Italian government officials. There is another more incriminating note that has been recovered. This note shows AgustaWestland brokers indicating how much money was paid to individuals and officials.
All names are indicated using initials. Two entries, particularly, are interesting. They read “AP” and “FAM”. These have been interpreted as Ahmed Patel, a Gandhi family confidante, and ‘Family’, i.e. the Gandhi family, but there is no way we can confirm this.
Meanwhile, there are other parts to this scam that nobody is talking about.
For example, it has been alleged that the specifications of the helicopters required were changed under the influence of bribes.
An Italian court has said that it was “validly proven” that a part of $10-15 million was distributed as bribes to Indian officials.
The involvement of a former air force chief, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi along with three of his relatives was suspected. But an Italian court has acquitted SP Tyagi of any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, investigations in India do not appear to be going anywhere.
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