India raids over AgustaWestland bribery charges

A Merlin HC3, a variant of the AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopter family
Image caption The AW-101 and its variants can carry up to 45 troops with full equipment and is capable of air-to-air re-fuelling

Police in India have raided the home of the former air force chief SP Tyagi over allegations of corruption in a helicopter deal with Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said it had registered a criminal case against the firm and its Italian parent company Finmeccanica.

It said four firms and 12 individuals were being investigated in the case.

Mr Tyagi has denied charges that he or any of his relatives were paid bribes.

The scandal came to light last month after Finmeccanica's chief Giuseppe Orsi was arrested in Milan.

The Italian authorities said they had been investigating him for bribery and embezzlement for several months. Mr Orsi has denied any wrongdoing.

Italian investigators also named Mr Tyagi in a preliminary inquiry submitted to an Italian court.

India's defence ministry stopped payments to the company and ordered its own inquiry into the $752m (£481m) 12-helicopter deal.

Raids conducted

On Wednesday, India formally launched an inquiry by conducting raids in Delhi and nearby areas including the town of Chandigarh.

Image caption Mr Tyagi and his cousins are among several people accused in the case

Officials said cases had been registered against Mr Tyagi, his cousins Julie Tyagi and Docsa Tyagi and several others.

The former air force chief and his cousins were questioned last week by the CBI, reports said.

In February, Defence Minister AK Antony said the government would blacklist and take legal action against any company found to have paid a bribe.

Italy has also issued arrest warrants for two people living in Switzerland. The head of Finmeccanica's AgustaWestland business, Bruno Spagnolini, has been placed under house arrest.

India signed the agreement in February 2010 to purchase a dozen three-engine AW-101 helicopters for an elite squadron of the Indian Air Force which transports the president, the prime minister and other VIPs.

Reports say that three of the 12 helicopters have already been delivered to India and the rest are expected to arrive by the middle of 2014.

The ruling Congress party has been hit by a series of damaging corruption scandals recently and the opposition has made regular calls for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resign.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites