Tyagi denies bribery charges, supports CBI probe

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) Former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S.P. Tyagi Wednesday denied reports that he was bribed in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal and said a CBI probe could establish the facts.

The Indian Express reported that the allegation against Tyagi was made in a preliminary inquiry report filed by prosecutors in Italy Tuesday.

The Indian defence ministry Tuesday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the $750 million deal for 12 VVIP AgustaWestland helicopters following the arrest of its Italian manufacturer Finmeccanica's chief on charges of graft in the contract.

"It is shocking for me and I am sure it is shocking for everybody... it's bad news for the entire air force, it's horrifying," Tyagi told a TV channel.

"The charge was I was bribed to tweak a change in requirement to suit Agusta... Changes are not made by the Air Headquarters... final changes have to be approved by the minister of defence. Air Headquarters can recommend it. But to the best of my knowledge Air Headquarters have not recommended any changes. I am shocked... I have no clue what this is all about," he said.

Favouring a CBI probe, he said: "There should be an inquiry, only then can the facts be established."

This is not the first time that allegations over the helicopter deal have surfaced. Three of the helicopters have already been delivered to the IAF, the first of them in December 2010.

The contract for the helicopters had been signed in February 2010.

The IAF has sought the AgustaWestland choppers as a replacement for its Mi-17 cargo helicopters that have been modified for VVIP deployment. The Comptroller and Auditor General had made an adverse comment, saying it was a waste of resources.

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