Governor Narayanan Questioned by CBI in VVIP Chopper Case
NEW DELHI :MK Narayanan, the Governor of Bengal, has been questioned today by the Central Bureau of Investigation or the CBI in connection with an alleged swindle centred on the sale of 12 helicopters to India by Agusta Westland, an Anglo-Italian defence manufacturer .
The 3600-crore deal was signed in 2010. It was cancelled in January this year by India over allegations that kickbacks were paid by AgustaWestland and its parent company, Finnmeccanica, which is based in Italy. (VVIP chopper scam: India cancels Rs. 3,600-crore deal with AgustaWestland)
Mr Narayanan was the National Security Advisor in 2005 and attended meetings where Indian officials decided to amend technical specifications for the 12 helicopters the government wanted to buy for the use of the Prime Minister and President among others. The changes ensured that AgustaWestland qualified for the contract.
Mr Narayanan, 80, is on a list of governors who the BJP wants to replace because they were appointed by the previous government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh. In recent weeks, Mr Narayanan has refused to deny that he could quit soon. His term expires in 2015. His interrogation today could give the BJP new leverage in pushing for his exit.
In March last year, the CBI registered a criminal case under India’s anti-corruption laws and named Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, as targets of its probe. The CBI has said that four firms and 12 individuals, including former Air Force Chief SP Tyagi, are being investigated. The retired officer has denied any wrongdoing.
Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland have denied paying bribes but Italian police have arrested the head of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, in connection with the case.
The national auditor said last year that the government had had initially stipulated that the helicopters should be able to fly to an altitude of 6,000 metres (19,685 feet), which meant that AgustaWestland could not compete since the AW101 was certified to fly only to 4,572 metres (15,000 feet). That rule was later revised, allowing AgustaWestland to get the contract. with inputs from Santanu Banerjee, Kolkata