Allegations of kickbacks?
Antony orders fresh probe into VVIP chopper deal?
Defence Minister AK Antony on April 24, 2012 directed his ministry officials to get a fresh report from the Indian Embassy in Rome following a media report alleging malpractices in the procurement of 12 helicopters for the VVIP Communication Squadrons of the Indian Air Force from chopper manufacturer M/s Agusta Westland.
A section of Indian media has reported that Italy has begun investigating the sale of 12 VVIP helicopters to India by Agusta Westland as it suspects that a commission of 51 million Euros (Rs 350 crore) was paid by Agusta to an agent to ‘facilitate’ the deal. This ‘agent’ has been identified as Switzerland-based consultant Guido Ralph Haschke. Indian laws debar the use of middlemen for defence deals.
Earlier in the day, in response to questions from reporters outside Parliament, Antony had remarked thus: “I have not seen the report. I can assure you I will seriously pursue the inquiry. When previously the reports appeared, I asked the Defence Secretary to immediately inquire into it. He wrote to the Indian Ambassador in Italy and he got the report.”
There were media reports also in February 2012 about investigations undertaken by Italian authorities into alleged unethical dealings by M/s Finmeccanica Italy. Following this, information was sought by the Ministry of Defence from the Indian Embassy in Rome. The Indian Embassy reported that Italian authorities were conducting preliminary investigations on allegations of financial malpractices occurring within Finmeccanica and its subsidiaries in general. There was no specific probe being conducted on India-related transactions. There is no clear indication at this stage whether the India related deal would be probed on the strength of preliminary investigations.
It may be recalled that the contract for the procurement of the helicopters contains the standard provisions against use of undue influence and employment of agents and payment of agency commission. A Pre-Contract Integrity Pact has also been signed between Agusta Westland and MoD.
Any such complaint or allegation received will be investigated and the contractual provisions invoked, in case any wrong doing is established, in addition to action that may be required under law, MoD’s chief spokesman Sitanshu Kar said. (FOC)?