Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha that “while the operation of the contract for procurement of 12 VVIP/VIP helicopters has been put on hold, no decision has been taken so far to cancel the contract” with AgustaWestland.
The Minister also stated that Central Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the kickbacks in the chopper scam, has registered a case against six firms, namely M/s Finmeccanica, Italy, M/s AgustaWestland, U.K., M/s IDS Tunisia, M/s Infotech Design System (IDS Mauritius), M/s IDS infotech Ltd. Chandigarh, and M/s AeromatrixInfotech Solution, India.
However, he added that “no charge-sheet has been filed by CBI so far as the investigation is still in progress”.
In response to another question, the Minister said “certain documents have been received form the Italian authorities in connection with the VVIP helicopter deal. The investigation by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is in progress and the reply of AgustaWestland to the showcause notice is under process.”
The Minister’s statement has come at a time when AgustaWestland has sent a notice to the Defence Ministry urging it to participate in the arbitration process.
The company had in November nominated a former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna to represent it in arbitration with the Indian Government over the Rs 3,546 crore helicopter deal.
Earlier in October, AgustaWestland had announced that it had started arbitration proceedings against the Indian Government over their decision of February this year to scrap the 2010 contract to supply 12 AW101 helicopters for VVIP use and freeze all payments. So far only three helicopters have been delivered under the pact.
Incidentally, Indian officials are due to question Guido Ralph Haschke, one of the three middlemen in the case, in an Italian court on December 13. Extradited from Switzerland, Haschk3e had earlier claimed that bribe was paid to Indian Air Force officials and bureaucrats and some money had also gone into the pockets of politicians.
The Ministry of Defence had initiated the final cancellation process after the Law Ministry and the Attorney General stated that there was “a clear violation of the integrity pact and the contractual obligations” by AgustaWestland.