Even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting a probe into allegations of financial irregularities and payoffs in the Rs. 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian firm has knocked on the doors of the the Finance Ministry for release of nearly Rs 2,400 crore which has been put on hold by the Defence Ministry pending inquiry into the case.
AgustaWestland has written to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, saying there were certain “contractual difficulties” with the Defence Ministry and holding back its payments amounted to “breach of contract”.
The firm has said that as per the principles of justice under Indian and Italian laws, till proven guilty, “no individual or organization” can be held guilty and investigations were still on in both the countries in the alleged chopper scam.
“I am writing to you to provide the information in respect of contractual difficulties that have arisen between Defence Ministry and AgustaWestland International... Neither the contract nor the associated integrity pact confers any rights on the Defence Ministry to unilaterally suspend the contract or withhold payments that become due under its terms. We regret that such actions appear to amount to a breach of the contract,” the firm said.
The letter has been written by AgustaWestland Managing Director Geoff Hoon.
India has paid around 30 per cent in the Rs 3,600 crore deal and withheld the remaining after the Italian investigators arrested former CEOs of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland for allegedly paying Rs 362 crore kickbacks.
The CBI has registered a case into the payoffs allegations and has questioned former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi and his three cousins in the case.
In the letter, the firm said it has been trying to get an audience from the Defence Ministry but it has not responded to its requests so far.