Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, on Wednesday said his scam-tained predecessor S.P. Tyagi was like a “family member” but if corruption charges in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal were proven against him the force would have no sympathy for its former chief.
Addressing a press conference days before he is scheduled to retire as the IAF chief and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Raha said the law of the land must be followed in the scam that has rattled the force with Tyagi’s arrest on December 9 for allegedly accepting bribes in clearing the procurement of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from Britain-based AgustaWestland.
Tyagi — the first chief of any wing of the armed forces to be arrested in the country — was given bail by a court here on Monday.
“Such issues have come up from time to time. Be it Bofors or be it some other acquisitions, there have been problems,” Raha said.
He, however, admitted that if the corruption charges were proved it would be “bad for the armed forces, or whoever is involved”.
“It is not only the armed forces that are involved in procurement. There are so many agencies involved. Can’t pin the blame on one particular organisation or service. To my mind many of the issues that have sprung up in the recent times have their origin some time back, a decade back. These are being investigated. It is premature for me to say anything,” he said.
Raha said he didn’t know about the evidence the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which is probing the case, has against Tyagi.
“The Air Force believes the law of the land has to be followed… Let the investigation be complete. Whatever the decision of the court, we will abide by that.”
He said Tyagi, as long as not convicted, should be given his due credit being a former IAF chief.
“A former Air Chief is like an extended family. If anyone in my family goes through a rough patch I think we should stand by them… If charges are proved, then of course we have no sympathy.”
The CBI has alleged that Tyagi and other accused had received bribes from AgustaWestland for helping the manufacturer win the $556.262 million contract to purchase the helicopters for the Communication Squadron of the Indian Air Force to carry the President, Prime Minister and other VVIPs.
The accused had allegedly hatched a conspiracy to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters to make AgustaWestland eligible for the contract.
The CBI claimed that Tyagi and his brothers received 126,000 euros after May 2004 and 200,000 euros after February 2005 in the form of consultancy fee from Gordian Services.
It added that Tyagi also received some amount in cash from Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Valentino Ferdinando Gerosa, who were linked with Gordian Services.
Tyagi, the Indian Air Force chief from 2004 to 2007, has denied the charges saying the deal was executed after his tenure.