In August 1999, just after the so-called Kargil military conflict, the Indian army made a strong plea for a high altitude flying helicopter, since the two combat areas where maximum Indian casualties took place was Tiger Hill at 18, 000 feet and Siachen at 17,500 feet. IAF Chetak and Cheetah could land at those heights but could carry only 4 combat troops per flight.
The IAF also pitched in for new generation helicopter to replace Mi-8 version for the VVIP ferrying, which was incapable of night flying and above 9000 feet.
With the parameters in mind, the IAF was authorized to issue a RFP, in March 2002. Four suppliers applied. After a preliminary analysis, three suppliers were selected for flight evaluation.
Agusta Westland’s A-101 failed to make the list after flight evaluation–because it could fly at 18, 000 feet and above. India’s swadeshi produced Dhruv helicopter could fly 20,000 feet, but was not certified at that time, and so it was never considered.
That left two—Russian Mi-172 and M/s Eurocopter EC-225. After Operational Requirements were considered, the Russian copter got disqualified. That left one choice—EC-225, which was therefore selected by the IAF. It was decided to order 8 helicopters.
Enter Brijesh Mishra. He, as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, called a meeting on November 19, 2003. He rebuked the IAF for not being cognizant of the needs of VVIP, who he observed rarely go flying above 14, 000 feet. He added that if even if they do, as Defence Minister George Fernandes used to, viz., fly to Siachen, then such VVIPs can used the Chetak.
Mishra made sure that IAF understood what he was saying by shooting off a letter dated December 22, 2003 to the IAF disapproving of the framing the Operational Requirements[ORs] without consulting him or SPG Chief on VVIP needs including the height of the helicopter entry door.
Exit NDA from union government and enter UPA. But Mishra’s letter was curiously honoured by the UPA government on the invisible informal direction, through the PMO, of Ms. Sonia Gandhi.
Therefore meetings were re-convened of the IAF, with PMO and SPG invited from March 2005, and the new ORs finalized in September 2006. The max heights were revised downwards to 4500 meters i.e., 14, 000 feet. It was also decided to order from 8 to 12 helicopters, with four specially decorated for VVIPs. A call for intent to buy was then issued. Six vendors responded.
Agusta Westland of Italy was back in the reckoning in the RFP along with five others. The formalities of testing and evaluation were gone through.
By February 2008, only two were left for choice: S-92 of M/s Sikorsky of US, and AW-101 of Agusta Westland of Italy[originally of UK, but which went bankrupt after selling helicopters to Pawan Hans in the 1980s. Italian government then bought it].
Field trials attended by the SPG as well disqualified the S-92 on the basis of a specially quality requirements [SQR]. Thereafter SPG Chief Wanchoo flew for two weeks visit to Italy in 2009 to give the Italians the good news—they had been selected thanks to the “rehanuma” Ms. Sonia Gandhi.
The deal worth over Euro 556 million was inked and sealed on February 8, 2010 after the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared a month earlier.
The nitty gritty of who gets what was worked out by Mr. Abhishek Verma, the son of the Hindi teacher of Ms. Sonia Gandhi. In gratitude for the Hindi taught, Ms. Sonia Gandhi agreed to become Patron of Verma Foundation AG, a benefactor of the deserving in the field of arms trade.
That bribes were paid in this deal is well established by the Italian government investigation. A 568 page Report prepared by Italian Special Police has been filed in the Milan Court which can be officially accessed by the CBI if they ask the Court with a Letter Rogatory[LR] and not by flying off for a jaunt as they have done lst week.
This Report accessed by me informally refers to a total bribe paid of Euro 51 million or about Rs 470 crores. Of this Rs 200 crores has been paid, reverentially referred to as “The Family”. The receivers are relatives of Ms. Sonia Gandhi.
The great facilitator in this deal, Mr Brijesh Mishra has a daughter, Jyotsna, married to an Italian belt manufacturer, who live in Italy. It needs to be found out she got anything. Brijesh Mishra in 2011 was decorated with Padma Vibhushan by our Rashtrapati.
What can we Indians do now? First, the CBI must be forced to take out a LR, and go to Milan to access the Italian documents. The government should set a SIT of CBI, ED, SFIO, RAW and IB under CBI chairmanship. Second, Abhishek Verma must be taken into custody for interrogation. Ex IAF Chief Tyagi must be also interrogated along with his relatives and intermediaries such as Aeromatrix. Third, Christian Michel must be traced through the Interpol and arrested for interrogation. Thereafter, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, and his two Italian aunties, Anushka and Nadia [on the duo’s next visit to India] should be questioned on whether they had met him before the deal was inked and sealed, in Dubai at Hyatt Hotel in the company of a Keralite liquor Dada. Fourth, one us Indian activists against corruption, such as Action Committee Against Corruption in India [ACACI] should go to the Supreme Court with a PIL and ask CBI to be monitored in its investigation. Fifth, the Defence Minister must invoke Article 23 of the Purchase Contract to suspend the purchases [only 4 of the 12 helicopters delivered so far] with a threat of cancellation if they don’t come clean on what happened. Finally, the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh should tender a public apology for approving this corrupt deal in the CCS, knowing fully well what was happening.