The Central Bureau of Investigation has sought sanction from the Centre to prosecute former Defence Secretary and Comptroller and Auditor General of India Shashi Kant Sharma, former Air Vice Marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar, and three other Indian Air Force officers in connection with the AgustaWestland chopper scam, the Hindustan Times reported on Friday. Sharma was defence secretary between 2011 and 2013, before being appointed Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
The three IAF officers have been identified as Deputy Chief Test Pilot SA Kunte, Wing Commander Thomas Mathew and group captain N Santosh, PTI reported. Kunte and Santosh retired as air commodores.
Under the United Progressive Alliance government, a Rs 3,565-crore helicopter deal was signed in 2010 with the British-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The agreement was put on hold after Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company, on charges of paying bribes to win the contract.
The CBI is likely to file a supplementary chargesheet detailing the role of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the deal. Michel was extradited to India from Dubai in December 2018 and is now in judicial custody. The chargesheet on Michel will explain how he allegedly paid bribes to Indian officials to influence the decision to grant the in favour of AgustaWestland.
AgustaWestland was initially not eligible for the contract as its helicopters did not meet the 6,000 meters ceiling parameter of the IAF. However, at the behest of former IAF chief SP Tyagi, the ceiling was allegedly lowered to 4,500 metres.
Officials said the CBI may also provide details about the alleged roles of some former public servants, who were holding key decision-making positions when the deal was being finalised, PTI reported. CBI officials said the prosecution sanction has been pending with the central government since March.
The agency has alleged that Michel’s firms received about 42.27 million Euros (Rs 368.23 crore) from Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland to help them secure the Rs 3,600-crore deal.