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Former air chief marshal S.P. Tyagi, caught amidst allegations of receiving kickbacks to facilitate the VVIP AgustaWestland Chopper deal spoke to Outlook’s Toral Varia Deshpande.
What do you have to say to the allegations levelled against you in the 64-page report prepared by an Italian investigating agency?
Everything is a matter of record in the air HQs and, I can say with some authority that absolutely no changes were suggested by the iaf in general or by me in particular during the time when I was the chief (January 1, 2005, to March 1, 2007). The Italians have alleged that I received kickbacks via my cousins to change the specifications to facilitate AgustaWestland. But please understand, the air HQ has no authority to change the requirements. Such changes can be made only by the ministry of defence. In fact, the Raksha Mantri is the final authority.
So what’s your version of the truth?
The tenders were opened after my retirement. The trials were conducted after my retirement. The deal was signed after my retirement. How did I come into the picture? The only thing that happened in my tenure was that the Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued, but that was on the basis of specifications decided back in 2003—on the instructions of the then NSA Brajesh Mishra and in consultation with the spg. Why then would someone want to pay a huge amount to me?
Are you suggesting that you are being singled out?
The trials were conducted during former air chief Fali Major’s tenure. The contract was finally signed when Pradeep Naik was the air chief. So how come only I am being cornered?
"The trials were conducted during Fali Major’s stint. The contract was inked in Pradeep Naik’s. Why am only I being singled out?"
But you cannot deny the fact that you are related to Julie, Docsa and Sandeep Tyagi.
In 1999, due to some internal family issue, relations between the two families were completely severed. There was absolutely no contact. By the end of 2006, my uncle’s health had deteriorated drastically. I decided to renew ties. The first tentative contacts with my cousin’s family were re-established only by the end of 2006 and by then the RFP had been issued. Our relations started improving only after my uncle’s death in February ’07, just a month before my retirement.
But have you spoken to your cousins regarding this?
Of course! I spoke to them when their names started appearing in the news. I asked, “Bhai, tumhara naam kyun aa raha hai? Have you guys done anything that’ll put me in a spot or drag me into a controversy?” They said, “It’s all nonsense.” I’ve to go by what they say.
Are you aware what sort of businesses your cousins are into? Or if they deal with Italians?
They know a few Italians and have business contracts for the last 20 years or so. But they claim to have absolutely no links with the deal. My cousins are running businesses in the power sector. They are into getting European firms to invest in India’s power secto.
But you do know a Carlo Gerosa, said to be one of the middlemen?
Yes. I had met Carlo about 15-20 years ago. I know him through my cousins. But because I knew him only through my cousins—and since we were not even on talking terms for nearly seven years, I was out of touch with Carlo too. The next time I met him was only after my retirement and that meeting too was through my cousins.