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VVIP chopper deal: CBI now questions M K Narayanan

VVIP chopper deal: CBI now questions  M K Narayanan
West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan (80) was on Friday questioned in Kolkata as a ‘witness’ in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP helicopter deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland. He ‘deposed’ before a team of CBI sleuths from the national capital probing allegations of bribery in the case.

The officers recorded his statement as a witness because Narayanan, along with Goa Governor BV Wanchoo, had participated in the meeting in 2005 that allowed some key changes in the technical specifications of the helicopter. Wanchoo was then the chief of Special Protection Group (SPG), while Narayanan was the National Security Advisor before being appointed as Governor of Goa and West Bengal respectively. In more than an hour-long of questioning, Narayanan reportedly passed the buck to the technical wing of the defence ministry for allowing the key changes. ‘Our team will come back to Delhi tomorrow and the same team will soon leave for Goa to question BV Wanchoo,’ CBI sources said.

With CBI knocking doors of Governors, there are speculations that Narayanan as well as Wanchoo will step down from the prestigious post. Narayanan’s term is ending in January 2015, while Wanchoo’s term is ending in 2017. There was allegation against the former Indian Air Force Chief SP Tyagi that he had reduced flying ceiling of the helicopter to include AgustaWestland in the bid to compete with another company Sikorsky.

The probe agency had registered a case against Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and some European middlemen in the case. However, Tyagi denied the charges slapped against him by the CBI. The UPA government had cancelled the deal in January 2014, but the scam raised several questions over the functioning of the ministry of defence. With tremendous pressure from various sectors, then defence minister AK Antony had ordered an investigation by the CBI. The deal was cancelled ‘on grounds of breach of the pre-contract Integrity Pact and the agreement by AgustaWestland International Ltd after allegations surfaced that US $60 million was paid as bribe to the middlemen. Then the CBI had sought permission to record the statements of the two governors as part of its probe. But the previous UPA government had rejected the CBI’s request.
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