Chopper scam: BJP drags Gandhis

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 16, 2013 07:53 hrs

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has dragged the Gandhi family's name in the unfolding AgustaWestland chopper scam and demanded a court monitored probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the defence purchase scandal.

BJP former MP Kirit Somaiya in a letter on Friday to the investigating agency CBI said there are "prominent signs of Indian connection in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, very similar to Bofors scam."

"According to the Italian newspaper Lettera 43, main commission agent Christian Michel's late father was 'close to the Congress party', and the other middleman, Guido Ralph Haschke, was a Director of Emaar-MGF," said Somaiya.

"Emaar MGF is a real estate company owned by, the late Ved Prakash Gupta with the late S K Singh being one of the promoters and shareholders of the company. S.K. Singh is father of Kanishka Singh who is close to Rahul Gandhi and served as his political secretary," wrote Somaiya.

"It is believed that British citizen Michel, had received 60 per cent (around '210 crore) of the kickback amount of 51 million Euros (around '360 crore) from the Finmeccanica, the manufactures of AgustaWestland choppers," he wrote.

"His contacts are stronger especially with the Indian Defence, that he has inherited from his father, Wolfgang Max Michel Richard, a British businessman who was very active in India between 80s and 90s and was close to the Congress party," wrote Somiya.

Earlier in a statement, BJP National Spokesperson and MP Prakash Javadekar demanded "a time-bound court monitored CBI inquiry into the kickbacks in the purchase of 12 AW101 helicopters worth over Rs 3,500 crores. "

"The CBI inquiry will not yield any result in the UPA regime without monitoring by the Court. In other major scams like 2G scam, the Congress has ordered probe under public pressure but subsequently delayed the investigation. Only after Supreme Court suo motu started monitoring the 2G scam, it started yielding results otherwise it was a lame duck inquiry for 15 months," said BJP.

"In two places, Italian charge sheet talks about payment of 28 million Euros to 'The Family'. The nation wants to know who 'The Family' is?" said BJP.

Reacting to BJP allegation and demand for time-bound probe under court monitoring, Congress leader and Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said BJP should talk to them.

"We are open to dialogue on this and decision has to be taken by concerned agencies," Khurshid said on BJP demand.

He told a TV channel that the BJP should talk to Congress rather than scream and shout since one should not forget that there were decisions that were taken in NDA regime that led to the conclusion of the contract.

The government on Friday issued show cause notice to the AgustaWestland of UK, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, on bribery charges in the Rs.4000-crore VVIP chopper deal.

The government has initiated action for cancellation of contract and the Integrity pact for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs.

"The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has initiated action for cancellation of contract for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs," Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

"MoD today issued a formal show cause notice to the AgustaWestland of UK seeking cancellation of contract and taking other actions as per the terms of the contract and the Integrity Pact," the ministry said.

Besides bribing Indian officials for a 12-helicopter deal, Finmeccanica discussed kickbacks for a larger deal with a serving Brigadier in the Indian Army, Italian prosecutors had said.

The government has provided the company with a term of seven days to come clear on why the deal should not be cancelled.

"MoD had already put on hold further payments to the company on Wednesday. With today's show cause notice, the operation of the contract has been put on hold. The company has been asked to reply to the notice in seven days," it said.

The issue is all set to be debated upon in the upcoming session of Parliament.

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government is ready to discuss the helicopter deal in Parliament and can go for even a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the allegations of corruption.

The report by the investigators said that an alleged middleman for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, touched the feet of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi.

The scandal scandal involved kickbacks worth upto Rs 360 crores for the deal that was worth about Rs 4,000 crores and allegedly took place during the tenure of Tyagi who headed the air force from 2004 to 2007.

Tyagi has denied the allegations and has said that he met one of the alleged AgustaWestland middlemen just once contrary to the charges of "six or seven" meetings.

The middleman Ralph Haschke has "confessed" that he met Tyagi six or seven times and once greeted him by touching his feet as a sign of respect, the Italian prosecutors have said.

The Italian inquiry has also found that in 2003, a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army allegedly demanded $5 million dollars to influence a contract for 197 light helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland.

The Indian government has already ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers.

Italian police arrested Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal.

More from Sify: