Augusta Westland deal: BJP hints at Italian connection, alleges cover up by Govt.

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 08:45 hrs

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday hinted at Italian connection and sought an answer from Defence Minister A.K. Antony as to why the government went so slow in the Augusta Westland copter deal.

BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said that his party would soon finalise its strategy on this issue, but added that he sees it the making of a second Bofors.

"And the government till date has not been able to satisfactorily explain why a silence for one year. Why gross inaction for one year? In spite of major news channels, documents coming into public domain, newspapers pursuing it, the issue being debated repeatedly, yet the government chose to completely be blind to this massive scale of corruption when there was a proper evidence available even now as to how in case of Delhi Police, the commission were offered by the same helicopter company, though it did not materialise. Therefore, why should be not presume that in case of defence deals, which is just adjacent to the Home Ministry, the same would have been offered," said Prasad.

"And Mr. A.K. Antony please explain first and I would like this question to be put to Sonia Gandhi and also Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh- when these things were in the public domain why did the government not choose even to initiate a preliminary inquiry, allowed the delivery of helicopters and what serious attempts were made to get information from the Government of India," he added.

Asserting that the suspicious circumstances surrounding rages one fundamental question again, Prasad said: "The fact that it was an Italian company was it a ground to go slow the BJP would like to know."

Prasad, who is the Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, further said that this issue would be taken in a very big way in the Parliament.

"Mr. Antony needs to explain why he did not present the correct facts before the Parliament. Mr. Antony needs to explain how you could not get the information from the Government of Italy when the Government of Italy was itself ordering an inquiry by their anti-corruption squad," he added.

Defence Minister A K Antony earlier in the day said that the CBI has been asked to give an early report on its probe into alleged helicopter deal.

Antony, who was speaking to the media at the Asian Security Conference here, said corruption will not be tolerated in defence deal, and added that the government will take strict action against the guilty.

"I have no information," he added, when asked to comment on the alleged role of former Air Chief S P Tyagi in the VVIP chopper deal.

The arrest of Italian company chief in Milan prompted the government in India to order a CBI probe.

Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi, who was arrested on Tuesday in Rome, had been under investigation for months and had denied any wrongdoing in the deal for the sale of 12 Augusta Westland helicopters to India in 2010.

The said contract was signed in February 2010 for the purchase of 12 helicopters. In view of media reports, the Ministry of Defence through the Ministry of External Affairs had sought information from the Governments of Italy and UK. No specific inputs were, however, received substantiating the allegations.

The contract signed with M/s. Augusta Westland includes specific contractual provisions against bribery and the use of undue influence as well as an Integrity Pact. 

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