CBI books Brigadier in a case offshoot of VVIP copter deal

In an off-shoot of VVIP helicopter deal scam, CBI today registered a case against a Brigadier working with Army Aviation Corps for allegedly fudging trial flight records of the copters. CBI registered the case against Brig V S Saini and unknown officers of the Army and Defence Ministry after the agency received a fresh set of documents from Italian police, official sources said here.

The case has been registered under various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, including abuse of official position, and Indian Penal Code including charges of forgery.

According to CBI, Brig Saini was part of the team carrying out trials of the competing helicopters in the Light Utility Helicopter.

Army Aviation was looking at purchase of 197 of light helicopters to replace its ageing Cheetah and Chetak fleet which undertakes reconnaissance and casualty evacuation operations in forward locations and high-altitude areas like Siachen, Ladakh, North Kashmir and Northeast.

The acquisition process of 197 helicopters had been cancelled once in December 2007 after having been finalised.

The Italian prosecutors found mention of Brig Saini in the documents seized by Italian prosecutors while probing the VVIP chopper scam.

The officer is alleged to have fudged the records of the trial flight of the helicopter to favour the company for which he and other unknown officers have received hefty commission, CBI said in its case.

Italian investigators claimed to have found a document which claimed that the Brigadier had allegedly demanded a bribe of five million dollars in 2010 to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland. The company was later eliminated from the race.

Defence Acquisitions Council, headed by Defence Minister AK Antony, has put the purchase of the helicopters on hold till the investigations were completed in the case.

"CBI has registered a case under section 13(1)(d) read with section 15 of the PC Act against an army Brigadier, unknown officials and private persons for allegedly attempting to favour an Italian firm in the procure of 197 R and S helicopters," CBI spokesperson said.

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