Wanchoo quits as Goa governor

Panaji : Hours after being questioned by CBI officials in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, Goa Governor B.V. Wanchoo resigned from the post Friday evening, an official said.

Wanchoo faxed his resignation to President Pranab Mukherjee, the official said.

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While the Raj Bhavan did issue a statement about the questioning of Wanchoo by CBI officials, no mention of the resignation was made in the statement.

Earlier in the day, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team quizzed Wanchoo for three and a half hours in connection with alleged graft in the procurement of AgustaWestland VVIP choppers for 556.262 million euros (Rs.3,726.96 crore).

A team of CBI officials arrived at the Raj Bhavan near here at 11.30 a.m. and left around 3 p.m.

A CBI officer, on condition of anonymity, said Wanchoo’s questioning was on the lines of former West Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan, the national security advisor when the deal was signed. Narayanan had also stepped down soon after being questioned.

A statement issued here by the state government’s information and publicity department said: “The Hon’ble governor was, pleased to give his statement as a witness today (Friday) and hopes that his statement would have clarified any issues that the CBI may have had and hopes that the CBI would conclude their investigation to bring out the truth at the very earliest.”

Wanchoo, a former Indian Police Service officer, was the head of the elite Special Protection Group when the deal was signed.

According to the CBI, both he and Narayanan were part of meetings which led to the height ceiling of the VVIP choppers being reduced, enabling AgustaWestland, an Italian chopper company, to enter the picture.

Wanchoo, who was appointed governor in May 2012, was still to complete three years of his five-year term.

But the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had been stepping up heat on Wanchoo with several senior party leaders, including state vice president Wilfred Mesquita, repeatedly asking him to resign “for his own good”.

The CBI 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, in the case.

The allegation against the former air force chief was 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 IAF’s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the president the prime minister and other VVIPs. The deal was called off after the corruption allegations surfaced.