Business Standard
You are here » Home » AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper Scam


The AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam is a corruption case where it has been alleged that bribes were paid to “middlemen”, perhaps even politicians, when India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica at an estimated cost of Rs 3,600 crore.
It has been alleged that several parameters — the height of the cabin of the helicopter, the operating ceiling, and the maximum altitude the helicopter could fly to, for instance- were tweaked to help AgustaWestland.
The VVIP choppers case is being probed by the Central bureau of Investigation (CBI).
How the AgustaWestland bribery case came to light
In February 2010, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of the time signed a contract to purchase 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters at Rs 3,600 crore. These helicopters were supposed to be used for ferrying the President of India, the Prime Minister, and other such very, very important people.
The chopper scam came to the fore in 2012 when it was found that several politicians and bureaucrats allegedly accepted bribes to swing the deal. The scam was first uncovered in Italy. In February 2013, Bruno Spagnolini, the CEO of AgustaWestland, was arrested by Italian authorities on charges the company bribed middlemen to secure the deal with the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The deal was cancelled in 2014 by the Congress-led government.
Key players in the AgustaWestland deal and charges against them
Former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi: Tyagi was arrested on 9 December 2016 in connection with the case. The CBI has alleged that Tyagi played a role in recommending the reduction in operational ceiling of the helicopters from 6000 m to 4500 m which brought AgustaWestland in the race.
It alleged that the IAF was strongly opposed to changes but when Tyagi became the chief, he recommended these.
CBI has alleged that firms of Michel received about 42.27 million euros for the purpose.
The bribes were allegedly routed through companies of Michel and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the form of multiple contracts through layered transactions to camouflage them.
Michel, extradited to India from the UAE in 2018, has alleged that the CBI team wanted him to take names of the Gandhi family, a claim refuted by the agency.