Why are bribe takers silent, asks BJP

A file photo of AgustaWestland (AW101) VVIP Airforce Helicopter.  

A fresh political slugfest has erupted over the VVIP helicopter scandal with the BJP gunning for Congress leaders in the 2010 deal in which an Italian appeals court has recently found evidence of corruption.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Defence Minister A.K. Antony had in March 2013 found evidence of bribes in the purchase of VVIP choppers. “Bribe givers have been convicted. Why are bribe takers silent? Antony should answer if leaders of Congress are involved in it or not. Are they from your party or not? Please come clean,” he said.

Mr. Prasad said the Treasury benches would use the issue to target the Congress in Parliament. The chopper scam is not an isolated case of graft but “corruption is the byword of UPA-I and UPA-II.” The Minister said Tuesday’s attack on the Congress was only the beginning.

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said on Tuesday that when the then UPA government discovered that the “integrity pact” that barred the use of undue influence had been violated in the VVIP chopper deal, it cancelled the contract. It also blacklisted the Italian company and ordered investigation by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

“Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. [A.K.] Antony [former defence minister], as you know had zero tolerance to corruption,” Mr. Sharma said.

On the accusation against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Sharma dismissed it, saying, “The note on which this is based is unsigned and it is from someone who is an accused.”

The deal was signed in 2010 for a dozen helicopters for transporting VVIPs but was first frozen in February 2013, when allegations emerged that Rs. 360 crore was paid as bribes, and later in 2014 it was cancelled.

Meanwhile, unofficial translation of an order of April 7 by an Italian appeals court showed that it has found evidence of corruption in the helicopter deal between IAF and Finmeccanica. The order also says that some of the kickbacks travelled to India as payment for various officials.

Among those who probably benefited from the kickbacks, the court said, was former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi.

The court order of April 7 also has some evidence mentioning the names of Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, but there is no evidence that they were bribed. Nor does the court order indict the three.

The appeals court overturned a lower court judgment that said there was no corruption established in the 2010 deal.

It found two former Finmeccanica executives guilty of graft.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 1:47:46 PM |

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