In a fresh development in the scam-tainted VVIP chopper deal, lawyers of AgustaWestland have reportedly told an Italian court that its parent company Finmeccanica had hosted the then IAF chief F H Major in 2007, a period when the bidders were being shortlisted.
The lawyers of the Anglo-Italian firm also told the court in Busto Arsizio that there was no meeting between Italian officials and the other former IAF chief S P Tyagi, who is named in a CBI FIR in the chopper scam in India, according to reports in the Italian media.
A former AgustaWestland official James Saporito had claimed during the last hearing on February 4 that he had hosted Tyagi during one of his visits to that country.
The lawyers reportedly said Saporito seemed to be confused over the identity of the person with whom he had had dinner while he was working with the company.
According to the reports, the lawyers of the firm also shared pictures of Major along with the company officials at a dinner hosted by the firm.
Reacting to the report, Major said he had visited Finmeccanica in 2007 during an official trip to Italy and the company had hosted him, along with his delegation members, for a dinner.
He said his visit had been approved by the government and programme chalked out by by officials concerned as well as the Indian Embassy in Italy.
"It was not for my personal requirement but for the delegation which was visiting the country," he told a TV channel.
Significantly, the trials of the choppers were held after Major took over from Tyagi on April one, 2007.
The CAG, while auditing the deal, had observed that the trials of the AgustaWestland helicopters were conducted abroad and not in India and had questioned Major's justification in this regard. The trials for the AgustaWestland model were conducted on representative Merlin helicopters and not on the actual craft whereas the other contender, Sikorsky, had offered its S-92 for try-outs, the CAG had said.
"Even at the stage of trials, the AgustaWestland chopper was in a developmental phase. Evaluation of helicopter following different methodologies could not give desired assurance that equal opportunity was provided to both shortlisted vendors.
"Thus, the recommendation and assurance given by the Chief of Air Staff in October 2007 to conduct trials abroad lacked justification," the government auditor had said.