NEW DELHI: Stepping up the heat in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today registered a money laundering case against former IAF chief SP Tyagi and others to probe proceeds of crime in the alleged kickbacks paid to procure the flying machines.
ED, which earlier registered a case under foreign exchange laws in this deal, decided to slap a criminal case to track the "illegal money" of the bribe, alleged to be over Rs 360 crore, dealt between the middlemen and other people named by CBI in its FIR filed in March 2013.
Taking cognisance of the more-than-a-year-old CBI complaint, the agency has booked Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke and four companies -- Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix -- in its criminal complaint filed under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). A total of 13 entities have been named by ED in the case.
Sources said the agency will soon initiate the process of recording of statements of these people even as it dispatches Letters Rogatory (LRs), or judicial requests to a few European countries, including Italy, seeking their cooperation.
Sources said the agency has already zeroed in on some of the immovable and movable assets of the accused which will be attached under the provisions of the laundering laws.
In order to track the alleged "bribe money" in this deal, it was important for the agency to register a criminal case as that would be conducive for it to seek cooperation from other countries under existing treaties and tax information exchange protocols, the sources added.
The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland came under the scanner after Italian authorities alleged that bribe was paid by the company to clinch the deal.
The Italian prosecutor who carried out the preliminary inquiry alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of UK-based AgustaWestland, had used the services of middlemen to bribe Indian officials.
The agency has already approached Defence Ministry seeking the relevant documents and other vital details available with them in this regard.
The documents, sources said, would help both the probes registered by ED -- of foreign exchange violations (under the Foreign Exchange Management Act) and the laundering case filed today.
Sources said the two cases registered by ED would be conducted separately.
The agency has also got in touch with some banks which were found to have been used to channel funds of private firms and individuals allegedly involved in the case.
CBI's allegation against the former Air Chief is that he reduced the flying ceiling of the helicopter so that AgustaWestland was included in the bids. Tyagi has dismissed the allegations against him and denied any wrongdoing.
CBI has questioned most of the India-based accused in this case. It also recently questioned former West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan and Goa Governor BV Wanchoo as "witnesses" in the case.
Defence Ministry has encashed a major chunk of bank guarantees worth over Rs 2,400 crore deposited by AgustaWestland in banks in Italy and India after the deal was scrapped by the previous UPA government in December last year.