Home / Politics / Policy /  CBI set to widen probe in AgustaWestland deal

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is set to widen its probe in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, bringing under its ambit politicians and journalists who allegedly received kickbacks, but will not base its probe on diary entries. CBI set the wheels in motion in the probe when it arrested former air chief marshal S.P. Tyagi on 12 December. Just a day after Tyagi was granted bail by the Patiala house court in Delhi on 26 December, CBI filed a petition in Delhi high court challenging the bail.

“We have filed a plea against the bail granted to Tyagi in the VVIP chopper deal with the Delhi high court and it is up for hearing on 9 January. We have no intention of letting the investigation process suffer at this juncture," said a senior CBI official on condition of anonymity. Although Tyagi named the then Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under Manmohan Singh as being a key player in the AgustaWestland deal, several top bureaucrats, politicians as well as journalists may also be questioned.

ALSO READ | AgustaWestland case: Ex-IAF chief S.P. Tyagi granted bail

The official said the CBI will not depend on handwritten notes by the alleged middleman in the deal, British national Christian Michel James. The notes reportedly mention the initials of some individuals, allegedly from important political families, as the recipient of €30 million of bribes from executives of the Italian firm.

Although an Italian court took these notes into account when it convicted AgustaWestland and parent company Finmeccanica bosses Bruno Spagnolini and Giuseppe Orsi last year, the CBI official flatly denied that the agency would be relying purely on “diary entries" and “notes" as substantive evidence.

“Handwritten notes and diary entries cannot in any way be used as evidence against any person or political entity. It is not admissible in court and therefore it is not what we are basing our investigations on. We will conduct our probe in the matter and then we will accordingly interrogate whoever we need to, when required," the CBI official added.

With investigations gathering momentum, the alleged involvement of several journalists is also going to be probed, the CBI confirmed. On Tuesday, following a petition filed by veteran journalist Hari Jaisingh, the Supreme Court ordered the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the home ministry to respond to the alleged pay-offs received by journalists in the Rs3,600 crore deal, in 2013.

ALSO READ | SC to hear plea seeking probe in AgustaWestland chopper deal

“Six million euros (approximately Rs50 crores) were set aside specifically to manage the Indian media. In 2013, Finmeccanica invited a group of Indian Journalists on a fully paid for trip to Italy. Notably, it was Christian Michel who had organized and facilitated the entire trip for the journalists," the petition states. However, the CBI denied reports that journalists who had written in favour of the AgustaWestland deal were under scrutiny as well.

“How can you probe a journalist for writing in favour of something? That is not even an allegation. The apex court has ordered us to probe and respond to the junkets that some of these journalists had received from the parent company—Finmeccanica—and their involvement thereof. But we have definitely not been asked to probe all journalists who had written in favour of the deal," the CBI official said.

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