With the probe into the VVIP chopper scam focusing on bribes allegedly paid to Indians, the CBI has found two "suspicious" remittances in 2009 to the accounts of former IAF chief SP Tyagi, who had retired in 2007.

The agency is also learnt to have found that Tyagi is owner/shareholder in at least five companies. Top officials told TOI that the "body of evidence" is now focused on 'bribery', which is mentioned in the April 7 Italian court judgment.
"The statement given by S P Tyagi in 2013 to us is being matched with the facts highlighted in the judgment and there are many discrepancies in what he told us then and now," a senior CBI officer said.

Efforts to reach Tyagi for his comments on the issue were unsuccessful. In another development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is learnt to have checked the CCTV footage of a five-star hotel in central Delhi, where main middlemen Christian Michel largely stayed during his travels to India. Michel travelled to India about 100 times since 1993.

Apart from the hotel's CCTV footage and records to identify who all Michel met when the AgustaWestland contract was being discussed in the IAF and the defence ministry, the ED is also trying to ascertain the addresses Michel regularly visited in Delhi and NCR. His driver Narayan Bahadur is learnt to have told ED about his meeting places, including a farmhouse in south Delhi.
Investigators suspect that some 170 companies were formed in different countries by the alleged middlemen and accused persons to route the money to India. Three of Michel's companies alone are under the scanner.

It is also learnt that Michel paid for the foreign trips and luxury stays of two retired IAF officers. These two retired officials were questioned by the ED in 2014. The ED filed a criminal case last year under provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act in connection with alleged paybacks in the chopper deal which was cancelled by the government.

Meanwhile, an ED team is likely to visit Singapore soon. One of the companies used to transfer bribe funds in the web of companies was reportedly based in Singapore. A letter rogatory was sent there apart from 10 other countries, including Italy, Tunisia, Mauritius, the UK, British Virgin Islands and the UAE.

Taaza Vaartha

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