17 May, 2021

The Tail Rotor Is Up

No defence scamster has ever been punished. Will a former air chief’s arrest alter it?

Sudden Swoop
The police carry S.P. Tyagi out of a Delhi court, Dec 10
Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
The Tail Rotor Is Up

When Italian police searched the home of the mother of middleman Guido Ralph Haschke, a Swiss resident, in 2013, they came away with a suitcase stowed away in one of the bedrooms, the La Repubblica had reported. It contained documents and handwritten notes. The papers revealed a clear international bribery plan: how to split $27m (Rs 181 crore) between “AF”, “POL”, “BUR” and “Fam”, according to Italian prosecutors. The aim was to swing a deal for AgustaWestland, a chopper company, to supply the Indian Air Force with 12 advanced helicopters.

Italian police told the court that “AF” stood for the Indian Air Force, “POL” for Indian politicians and “Fam” for the family members of S.P. Tyagi, a former Indian air force chief. This December 9, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Tyagi.

AgustaWestland’s parent Finmeccanica, an Italian state-controlled firm, is Europe’s third-largest supplier of defence equipment. Finmeccanica helicopters are flown...

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