AgustaWestland deal: government asks for early CBI probe

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 06:46 hrs

New Delhi: The government had requested the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for an early inquiry into the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal and would take "strongest action" after the probe was completed, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday.

"We have requested CBI for an early inquiry. I can assure you that the moment we get a report from CBI, we will take a strongest action provided in the integrity pact... that includes cancellation of the contract and blacklisting the companies. But before CBI's report, I don't want to jump to any conclusion," Antony said.

The Indian defence ministry Tuesday ordered a CBI probe into the $750 million deal for 12 VVIP AgustaWestland helicopters following the arrest of its Italian manufacturer Finmeccanica's chief on charges of graft in the contract.

"At the moment I'm not in a position to say anything," Antony added.

"We are examining everything seriously; even if the Indian government pay (paid) any amount of money as per the provisions of the integrity pact we can get back the entire money we paid to the vendor," he said, stressing that not a penny spent by the Indian government would be lost.

The minister said strongest action would be taken regardless of how influential the company is.

"We are not bothered about who the companies are, how strong they influential they are... But everything depends on the CBI inquiry, the moment we get the report from CBI, whoever is found guilty we will take strongest action against them. They have to pay the price for the lapses. Nobody will be spared," Antony said.

This is not the first time that the allegations have surfaced. Three of the helicopters have already been delivered to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the first of them in December 2010.

The contract for the helicopters was signed in February 2010.

The IAF has sought the AgustaWestland choppers as a replacement for its Mi-17 cargo helicopters that have been modified for VVIP deployment. The Comptroller and Auditor General had made an adverse comment, saying it was a waste of resources.

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