“Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not cut any deal of any sort,” the Centre has clarified in response to allegations of inaction and possible attempts to strike a deal in the AgustaWestland issue. In a statement released on Friday night, the government further brushed aside attempts to link one of the scam accused with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra as “a totally baseless assertion, devoid of reason and logic, and indicative of malicious intent”.
The Centre accused those questioning why Mr. Modi and the BJP government did not take any action on the alleged offer dated November 8, 2015 made by Mr. Michel to be questioned by the CBI and the ED on Indian soil, as an attempt “to side with a wanted criminal”. Emphasising that corruption alone is at the centre of the matter pertaining to acquisition of AgustaWestland helicopters, the government dismissed as misleading any other line of approach to the scam.
The government has also responded to allegations that it did not act against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, despite a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit of the State government revealing that purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters led to loss to public exchequer of Rs. 65 lakh. In its statement it has said that the government has been proactive in seeking response from the State governments.
“As per the State government of Chhattisgarh, the Public Accounts Committee of the Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha took cognisance of the CAG report regarding the 2007 acquisition, and took the evidence of State government officials. After analysing the evidence of officials and the report of the State government, the PAC closed the matter,” the statement notes.
“Similarly, as per the State government of Rajasthan, the alleged loss to public exchequer according to CAG was not on account of any irregularity in the procurement process, but due to the expenditure incurred on account of lack of planning and basic infrastructure prior to procurement, such as pilot training and maintenance,” the statement says.
Listing out its response to the scam, the government said that in an order dated July 3, 2014 it had put on hold all procurement/acquisition cases in the pipeline of six companies figuring in the FIR registered by the CBI, namely: Agusta Westland International, U.K.; Finmeccanica, Italy, and its group companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, Infotech Design System, Tunisia; IDS, Mauritius; IDS Infotech, Mohali; and Aeromatrix Info Solution, Chandigarh.
With regards to charges of clearance of a joint venture involving AgustaWestland by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, the Centre has said that this proposal was approved on September 2, 2011 based on an application by Indian Rotorcraft, a joint venture of Tata Sons with Agusta Westland NV, Netherlands.
“This was later changed to AgustaWestland S.p.A Italy due to reorganisation within the group. On 7 February, 2012 an industrial licence for the manufacture of helicopters was granted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to Indian Rotorcraft Ltd. However, the validity of licence has since expired,” it states.
Key clarification points
Ø The Modi government did not permit AgustaWestland to bid for 100 Naval Utility Helicopters in April 2015
Ø A techno-commercial Request for Proposal for Naval Utility Helicopters was issued to eight vendors on August 4, 2012. In response to this, M/S Eurocopters, France and M/S Agusta Westland S.p.A Italy submitted their techno-commercial proposals on March 4, 2013. Request for Proposal of the procurement case was retracted by the government on October 13, 2014
Ø The Indian Navy has hosted on the website a Request for Information for more than 100 Naval Utility Helicopters in October 2014. No Request for Proposal has been issued.
Ø The government is exploring whether the helicopters required can be manufactured under Make in India.
CBI response timeline
The Centre has also asserted that the CBI and Enforcement Directorate have pursued all aspects of their investigations, including the arrest and extradition of three foreign nationals namely Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke Ralph and Christian Michel James. The CBI has so far investigated over 100 witnesses. In September and November 2014, couple of accused have been arrested and their property attached. A criminal complaint was also filed. Letter of Requests were sent out by the ED and the CBI to Mauritius (July 2013), Tunisia and Italy (December 2013), British Virgin Islands, Singapore and U.K. (September 2014), UAE and Switzerland (December 2014).
24 September, 2015: Open-ended non-bailable arrest warrant issued by CBI against James Christian Michel .
December 2015 to January 2016: Interpol Red Corner notices issued under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Prevention of Corruption Act on charges of conspiracy and abuse of official position in giving favours to M/s AWIL.
January 4, 2016: Extradition request made for Mr. Michel. A request for provision arrest for the purpose of extradition made to U.K. authorities.
February 29, 2016: The ED has separately sent a Red Corner seeking arrest and a request for Mr. Michel’s extradition from the U.K.