Italian connection makes chopper scam comparable to Bofors: BJP

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 16, 2013 15:30 hrs

Kolkata, Feb 16 (IANS) Contending that the alleged "Italian" involvement made the $750 million VVIP chopper "scam" comparable to the Bofors gun scandal, the BJP Saturday demanded that the matter be fully probed by either a special team or under the monitoring of the Supreme Court.

"The information that has come out in the chopper scam is very serious. It reminds us of the Bofors gun scandal," veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi said at a media meet here.

"That (Bofors) also involved an Italian company, an Italian individual was associated with it. In this also, there is Italian association. That also related to defence, this one (chopper deal) also," Joshi said when asked to elaborate on the comparison between the two controversies.

Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi was charge-sheeted for allegedly acting as a conduit for bribes in the purchase of howitzer guns from Swedish company Bofors AE in the 1980s.

The scandal which erupted in the later 1980s was considered one of the reasons for the defeat of the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress party in the 1989 general elections. In 2009, however, a Delhi court discharged Quattrocchi from the pay-offs case after allowing the prosecuting agency CBI to withdraw charges against him.

However, Joshi evaded questions about whether he thought that the Gandhi family was involved in the chopper "scam".

Alleging that the "newest scam" endangers national security, Joshi demanded a probe "under the vigilance of the Supreme Court or though a special investigation team".

"We have suggested that the matter should be investigated in all its totality," he said.

When a scribe claimed that an Italian newspaper had referred to the involvement of a particular Indian family in the chopper controversy, Joshi said: "I have not read Italian newspapers".

The chairman of parliament's Public Accounts Committee refused to comment on any such reports in Indian newspapers, unless he went through it.

"The way I have said it, I have said," he said, pressed further on whether the Gandhi family had a role in the deal.

On his party leader Jaswant Singh opposing a CBI probe into the copter issue, Joshi said every person had a right to articulate his opinion. "My party is for a comprehensive inquiry."

A controversy has risen following alleged corruption in the February 2010 deal to acquire 12 AW101 helicopters from Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland for the Indian Air Force's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the president, prime minister and other VVIPs.

The defence ministry Friday initiated action for cancellation of the contract. It also issued a formal show-cause notice to the Britain-based subsidiary of Finmeccanica to explain within a week why the contract should not be cancelled.

The matter came to light when Italian agencies Tuesday arrested Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for alleged corruption to seal the deal.

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