"The allegation against the former air force chief is that he had reduced the altitude at which the VVIP helicopters could operate so that Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland was included in the bidding process."
New Delhi, July 8 - The CBI is likely to question Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan very soon in connection with alleged graft in the procurement of AgustaWestland VVIP choppers for 556.262 million euros (Rs.3,726.96 crore), officials said Tuesday.
Narasimhan, 68, will be the third governor to be quizzed in the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which previously questioned former Goa governor B.V. Wanchoo and former West Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan.
The agency interrogated Narayanan and Wanchoo last week as witnesses and they resigned soon after.
Officials said Narasimhan might be questioned today (Tuesday) or some time during this week itself.
CBI sources said Narasimhan will also be questioned as a witness in the case because he was the chief of the Intelligence Bureau in 2005 when the officials tweaked the technical specifications for the helicopters it wanted to buy, allowing AgustaWestland to qualify.
Narayanan was national security advisor at the time and Wanchoo was chief of the Special Protection Group (SPG), which handles the prime minister's security.
CBI sources said Narasimhan, along with Narayanan and Wanchoo, attended the March 1, 2005 meeting where the decision to reduce service ceiling - maximum height at which a helicopter can perform optimally - was taken, making AgustaWestland eligible for the deal.
The CBI sources further said Narasimhan's statement was also crucial to get additional inputs about the reasons for reducing service ceiling.
The CBI has alleged that reduction of the service ceiling allowed the Britain-based firm to get into the fray, as otherwise its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.
The invesigation agency had registered a case against former Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, along with 13 others, including his cousins and European middlemen.
The allegation against the former air force chief is that he had reduced the altitude at which the VVIP helicopters could operate so that Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland was included in the bidding process.
The defence ministry had concluded a contract with AgustaWestland in February 2010 for supply of 12 AW-101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the president, the prime minister and other VVIPs. Three helicopters were received between November 2012 and February 2013.