Britain assures help in chopper deal probe

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 19, 2013 09:20 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Britain Tuesday assured India help in investigations into the AgustaWestland chopper deal kickbacks controversy.

Speaking after meeting with visiting British Premier David Cameron, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "I conveyed to the Prime Minister (Cameron) our very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for AgustaWestland helicopters."

"I told him that we have sought an explanation from the company by Feb 22 to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the Integrity Pact have been violated."

"I have sought full assistance from the UK in this case. Prime Minister David Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigations," said Manmohan Singh.

Cameron assured his government would "respond to any request" on information on AgustaWestland.

"In terms of AgustaWestland, as the prime minister said, we would respond to any request for information," said Cameron.

"I am glad the Italian authorities are looking into this issue in detail as Finmeccanica is an Italian company, the parent company of AgustaWestland," he said.

Cameron added that Britain had tough anti-bribery laws and anyone guilty would be punished.

"We are extremely clear in Britain. We have introduced anti-bribery legislation, the strongest anywhere in the world", he said, adding that they would deal with "any problems of bribery or corruption wherever they appear and whenever they appear".

The controversy started after Italian agencies arrested Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for suspected corruption to seal the deal.

A team of India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and defence ministry officials left for Italy Monday to get more information on the alleged kickbacks in the $750 million (Rs.3,600 crore) chopper deal.

The defence ministry last week initiated action for cancellation of the chopper contract.

It also issued a formal show-cause notice to AgustaWestland to explain within a week why the contract should not be cancelled.

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