Company has to reply to Ministry’s final show cause notice by November 26

With Defence Ministry officials due to have a meeting with representatives of Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland on Wednesday to discuss the Rs. 3,600 crore helicopter deal, speculation is rife about the future of the contract.

The Ministry has accused AgustaWestland of “violating the integrity pact” and issued a final show-cause notice to it in September to which the company has to reply by November 26.

For its part, AgustaWestland has initiated legal proceedings on the actions taken by the Ministry. While three AW 101 helicopters had been delivered to the Air Force under the pact, there is uncertainty over the delivery of the remaining nine.

The Centre froze the contract for supply of VVIP choppers after allegations of kickbacks of Rs. 362 crore surfaced in February last and two senior executives of the company were named as accused.

In the same month, the Ministry issued a show- cause notice to the AgustaWestland. The company will now present its case before the Additional Secretary and Joint Secretary, who have been dealing with the matter.

While earlier requests from AgustaWestland for a hearing were turned down by the Ministry, it relented after Defence Minister A.K. Antony decided to give the company an opportunity.

As part of the probe into corruption by top executives of AgustaWestland and Finmeccania, the trial of the former Finmeccanica CEO, Giuseppe Orsi, is already on in Italy. As head of Italy-based Finmeccanica and its U.K.-based helicopter unit AgustaWestland, Mr. Orsi has been accused of trying to bribe Indian officials.

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