Chopper Scam: CBI Questions WB Guv M.K. Narayanan

New Delhi
Chopper Scam: CBI Questions WB Guv M.K. Narayanan
File-PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik
Chopper Scam: CBI Questions WB Guv M.K. Narayanan
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

In the first-ever questioning of anyone holding Gubernatorial post, CBI today quizzed West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan as a "witness" in connection with its probe into allegations of bribery in the Rs 3600-crore VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland.

A CBI team questioned Narayanan at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata after it had sought time for the same on June 24, agency sources said.

80-year-old Narayanan, who has been prodded to quit as Governor by the new NDA government, recorded his statement and answered questions relating to March one, 2005 meeting in which a decision was taken to reduce "service ceiling" (or the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from the 6000 metres to 4500 metres.

This is for the first time that a serving Governor has been questioned by CBI.

During the questioning spread well over two hours, Narayanan, who was the former National Security Advisor, explained the rationale behind the decision and also cited that his predecessor in the previous NDA government Brajesh Mishra had decided to lower the service ceiling in December 2003.

Narayanan was appointed as Governor of West Bengal in 2010.

After this, CBI will now examine and record the statement of Goa Governor B V Wanchoo as he was also part of of the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications of the chopper. He was the chief of elite Special Protection Group (SPG) guarding the Prime Minister before he was appointed as Governor.

CBI had sought permission to record their statements as part of its probe into alleged Rs 3600-crore bribe paid in the deal that was scrapped by the UPA government in December last year.

CBI registered a case against former IAF Chief S P Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case.

The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he had reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter so that AgustaWestland company was included in the bids. Tyagi has refuted the allegation against him.

However, this decision was taken in consultation with the officials of SPG and the Prime Minister's Office including Narayanan and Wanchoo.

The reduction of the service ceiling-- maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally--allowed the firm to get into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

CBI claims the parameters regarding the height at which the helicopter can fly as well as the flight evaluation were changed in a manner that enabled AgustaWestland to clinch the deal vis-a-vis its competitor Sikorsky.

CBI's request for questioning of Narayanan and Wanchoo had been earlier rejected by the Law Ministry during the UPA regime, prompting the agency to send a request to President Pranab Mukherjee's Secretariat seeking permission to record their statement as witnesses.

The Law Ministry had declined permission saying the two were in constitutional posts which gave them immunity from prosecution under Article 361 of the Constitution.

The agency has put the investigation in this case on a fast-track and questioned several bureaucrats including former Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi and Comptroller and Auditor General Shashikant Sharma who was the then Defence Secretary.

In April this year, former Secretary (Security) Sudhir Kumar, former Inspector General, SPG, N Ramachandran, who retired as DGP Meghalaya, and former Special Secretary (Acquisition) in the Defence Ministry H C Gupta were examined by the agency as part of its probe.

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