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Jaswant Singh demands probe, says ''ex-IAF chief can''t be blamed for chopper scam''

Jaswant Singh demands probe, says ''ex-IAF chief can''t be blamed for chopper scam''New Delhi, Feb 14 : Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh on Thursday said blaming former Air Chief S. P. Tyagi for the AgustaWestland copter scam is not correct, and demanded a probe in the matter.

"I am sad that the accused in this is an Italian company. It seems that we have forgotten them. What we are focusing on is only what did the chief do," Singh told media here.

"The Air Chief Marshal is a distinguished retired officer. We should not casually denigrate these higher officers of the armed forces," he added.

Emphasizing that the extent of scam in Italy is bigger than in India, Singh said a thorough probe must be conducted into the entire matter so that all hidden facts are cleared and the truth comes out.

The former air chief has rubbished allegations that he was paid a bribe to swing the approximately Rs. 3600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, which involved procuring twelve choppers from the Italian firm Finmeccanica.

Expressing his shock and disbelief over his name being involved in the scam, Air Chief Marshal (Retired) Tyagi said: "These allegations are totally baseless and I am denying them categorically."

"The deal was signed in 2010, whereas I retired in 2007 itself. All changes in requirements and specifications have to be approved by Ministry of Defence," Tyagi told media here yesterday, while countering allegations that the tender for the helicopters may have been tweaked under his influence.

"The tender was issued at my time, but no specifications were changed in my tenure," he added.

Asked about his relations with three alleged middlemen for the deal, including one ''former IAF officer identified as Captain Tyagi'', the former IAF chief said the officer concerned was his cousin, but added that their relationship did not go beyond this.

Amid sharp criticism from the opposition parties, the Congress-led UPA Government yesterday promised that the guilty would not be spared in the scandal involving bribery in the acquisition of expensive helicopters for use by VVIPs.

Defence Minister A. K. Antony on Wednesday said that strong action will be taken against those found guilty.

"Nobody will be spared whatever may be the consequences," Antony told media on the alleged Italian chopper scam.

The copter scam has unfolded with the arrest of the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company.

Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi, who was arrested on Tuesday in Rome, had been under investigation for months and had denied any wrongdoing in the deal for the sale of 12 Augusta Westland helicopters to India in 2010.

The company is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for helicopters to ferry Indian VVIPs, prompting the government to order a CBI probe. (ANI)