The Central Bureau of Investigation will seek details from the Defence Ministry of the deal with an Italian company to supply 12 helicopters to the Indian Air Force for launching an investigation into the payment of kickbacks.

The Ministry has asked the CBI to investigate the deal following news reports about corruption in the deal and the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, chairman and chief executive officer of the firm Finmeccanica. However, the agency has got only sketchy information already in the public domain, which is inadequate for even a preliminary inquiry. Hence, it will seek documents to decide to start a preliminary inquiry or straightaway file a case.

The CBI will later approach the Italian authorities to gather details of the findings of their investigations. While the agency officials remained tight-lipped about the investigation, a former CBI director said the CBI could at best only probe if there were any deviations from the tender requirements. He said the agency’s record in probing defence deals was dismal. “It is very tough to trace the money trail,” he said.

The deal struck with AgustaWestland in 2010 came under the scrutiny of the Italian government in 2011. Investigations by the Italian agencies on Tuesday culminated in the arrest of Orsi.

For its part, the Enforcement Directorate would take up investigations after the CBI registers a case.

In another case, suspicions regarding the operations of the Italian firm were earlier raised by C. Edmonds Allen, a U.S. attorney and estranged associate of businessman Abhishek Verma, who had last year shot off letters to Indian agencies sharing a document on a purported “consulting” agreement between AgustaWestland and U.S.-based Ganton Ltd. dated August 7, 2009. Mr. Allen, who had signed the deal as president of Ganton, alleged that he had set up the company at the behest of Mr. Verma, a charge denied by the Indian businessman.

Through the purported agreement, AgustaWestland had allegedly offered commissions to Ganton for facilitating sale of helicopters to the Delhi Police.

“Order probe by SIT or CVC”

J. Venkatesan reports:

An advocate filed a public interest writ petition in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to quash the deal. The petitioner, Manohar Lal Sharma, said a special investigation team or the Central Vigilance Commission should investigate allegations of corruption in the Rs.3,500-crore deal. The Court should supervise the probe.

He said the Centre did not order an investigation in 2011 when charges of payment of kickbacks to Indian citizens surfaced. While announcing the CBI investigation on Tuesday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony did not say that a first information report would be filed or the accused arrested.

The CBI investigation would not unearth the truth considering the record of the government, he said. The coal scam was not being investigated in a fair manner, and the government had tried to dilute charges and cover up facts.

More In: National | News