After scrapping the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with it, the Defence Ministry is now considering blacklisting AgustaWestland. A decision to the effect will be taken after due consultations with the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Law Ministry, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the National Cadet Corps function here, the Minister affirmed that the entire issue was being examined in detail. “We will take a final decision after consulting the Law Ministry and CBI,” he said.

The move comes at a time when the Government is actively considering using Mi-17V5 helicopters being procured from Russia for the purpose of transporting the VVIPs. Primarily meant for operational use, some of these 139 choppers – of which a few have already arrived -- may now be modified to transport the VVIPs.

The 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers the Air Force intended to purchase from AgustaWestland were meant to replace the ageing Mi-8 choppers. But with only three of them being procured, before the deal was suspended last year in the wake of kickback allegations, the Defence Ministry has been looking for alternatives.

The Minister denied that any understanding had been reached with AgustaWestland, a subsidiary company of arms major Finmeccanica, on not blacklisting it. This past week the opposition BJP had also accused the Centre of getting passed in the Defence Acquisition Council in December a contract for purchase of torpedoes from another subsidiary of Finmeccanica.

Asserting that the Centre was moving ahead with its action against the arms supplier, accused of bribing officials and politicians for securing the deal, Mr. Antony said it has already got bank guarantee (to the tune of Rs 250 crore) encashed with an Indian bank while it was in the process of following suit in Italy. “We are trying to get our money in Italy too,” he said.

The company, with which the contract was cancelled on January 1, this year on ground of breach of the integrity clause, had submitted bank guarantees to the order of nearly Rs 2200 crore.

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