Monday, February 24, 2014

Another IAF ex-chief gets dragged into copter mess

Finmeccanica Says It Hosted Major, He Says It Was With Govt Nod
New Delhi: Lawyers for Finmeccanica, the Italian conglomerate in the middle of the VVIP helicopter scandal, said former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major had accepted their company’s hospitality during a trip to Italy in 2007. The claim comes months after the name of another IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, emerged in the scandal.

However, in the case of Major, the lawyers have not gone beyond the claim of providing hospitality at a time when IAF was in the process of selecting a helicopter to fly India’s VVIPs. In response to the claims, Major said he accepted Finmeccanica’s hospitality with the approval of the government and the Indian embassy in Rome.

“It was not for my personal requirement but for the delegation which was visiting the country,” said Major. He said he visited Finmeccanica in 2007 along with other delegation members, and the company hosted him for dinner. The former IAF chief said his programme had been approved by the government and drawn by officials including Indian diplomats in Rome. Major’s name emerged in the courts after former senior vice-president of AgustaWestland, Giacomo Saporano, on Wednesday claimed that Tyagi had accepted the firm’s hospitality in Italy in 2007. During the dates mentioned by Saporano, Major was the IAF chief.

Finmeccanica’s defence lawyers later clarified that Saporano got confused with the names and dates and it was Major who was in Italy on those dates.

Major was at the helm of IAF from April 2007 to May 2009 and Finmeccanica lawyers say Major knew more about technical specifications since he was a helicopter pilot. Most of the selection process for the VVIP helicopters was handled during the period Major was IAF chief. However, his name has not appeared in any of the court filings, or documents that have emerged in Italy and elsewhere during investigations.

Tyagi and his three cousins have been named as accused by the CBI in its ongoing criminal investigation in India. Documents recovered from the accused by Italian investigators allegedly show kickbacks to the Tyagi brothers, and some others.

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