CBI Chargesheets Ex-National Auditor SK Sharma In VVIP Chopper Case

New Delhi: CBI has chargesheeted former national auditor Shashi Kant Sharma and former Air Vice Marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar, in the Agusta-Westland chopper deal, said sources. 

The agency probing the matter in 2020 had requested the Defence Ministry for allowing to prosecute former Shashi Kant Sharma, who was Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and Defence Secretary, and former Air vice chief Jasbir Singh Panesar.

Sharma was Joint Secretary (Air) in the Defence Ministry between 2003 and 2007. He went on to become Defence Secretary in 2011-13 and auditor (2013-2017).

The probing agency also sought sanction to prosecute SA Kunte, Deputy Chief Testing Pilot, Thomas Mathew, Wing Commander IAF and Group Captain N Santosh.

In 2016, the CBI’s Special Investigation Team took charge, and on September 1, 2017 filed first chargesheet against former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and 11 others.

Defence Ministry is providing sanction. With the sanctions the CBI has filed a supplementary chargesheet in 3,200 crore VVIP chopper case naming Sharma and four other senior IAF officials as accused in the case.

For recommending a reduction in the operational ceiling of the helicopters, despite objections, to help AgustaWestland, the former Air Chief has been accused, said CBI.

On the biding of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland’s top executives, Air Chief Marshal Tyagi did so. AgustaWestland’s top executives engaged the services of three middlemen — Christian Michel, Guido Haschke and Carlos Gerosa.

Christian Michel was extradited to India in 2018 and is currently in the Tihar jail.

The AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam is a corruption case, alleging that bribes were paid to “middlemen”, perhaps even politicians, when India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters. These choppers were built by Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica at an estimated cost of Rs. 3,600 crore.

It has been alleged that several parameters — the height of the cabin of the helicopter, the operating ceiling, and the maximum altitude the helicopter could fly to, for instance- were tweaked to help AgustaWestland.

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