Were payments made to Indians, asks New Delhi

Vinay Kumar
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Defence Ministry warns AgustaWestland of strict action

Amid choppy winds:A file photo of the AW-101.
Amid choppy winds:A file photo of the AW-101.

The Defence Ministry on Thursday asked Italian Finmeccanica’s subsidiary AgustaWestland U.K. to “categorically state the clear position, in view of current developments, indicating specifically if any financial transaction has taken place with any Indian individual/entity” violating the “Integrity Pact” or any other terms and conditions of the contract for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters. This comes two days after it ordered a CBI inquiry into allegations of bribery and warned of cancellation of the Rs. 3,600-crore contract

Amidst allegations of kickbacks and undue influence reportedly used to bag the deal, the Ministry warned AgustaWestland of “strict action, including cancellation of contract, recovery of payment, blacklisting and penal action against the vendors.”

The Ministry, under attack since allegations of kickbacks to the tune of Rs. 363 crore surfaced, has already put on hold all further payments to AgustaWestland, which has so far delivered three choppers, meant to ferry VVIPs.

The delivery of the remaining nine choppers is also said to have been kept on hold.

BJP demand

As its political opponents sought to put the UPA government in the dock, the main Opposition BJP demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe. Senior BJP leader and former Defence and External Affairs Minister in the NDA government Jaswant Singh came out in support of the former Air Chief, S.P. Tyagi, saying allegations should not be made before the truth became known.

Italian prosecutors have told a court that his three cousins were allegedly paid bribes to the tune of Rs. 72 lakh to get the requisite specifications for the tender changed. One of them, Sanjeev Tyagi, rejected the charge as “absolutely baseless.”

Parameters changed to prevent single-vendor

Mr. Singh admitted that the parameters for purchase of these helicopters were changed on the directions of the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Brajesh Mishra, but defended the decision saying it was done to avoid a single-vendor situation. He favoured an expeditious and thorough probe into the allegations of payment of kickbacks.

In a 35-point fact-sheet on acquisition of AW-101 choppers for the Indian Air Force, the Defence Ministry reiterated that the government “is determined to take all possible legal and administrative action against the guilty parties and accordingly has ordered a thorough probe by... Continued on Page 11

  • Italian prosecutors say three cousins of former Air Force Chief S.P.Tyagi were allegedly paid

  • Delivery of the remaining nine choppers is said to have been put on hold

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