Nothing to hide: PM on chopper deal

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 18, 2013 10:36 hrs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday broke his silence on the AugustaWestland chopper deal issue and said his government has 'nothing to hide' on the matter.

"Parliament is the forum to discuss everything and we are ready to discuss everything there. We have nothing to hide," Singh told media.

There are also reports in media that the PMO (Prime Minister´s Office) is unhappy with the proposal for cancellation of the deal.

A team of investigators comprising officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Defence Ministry is leaving for Italy any time now to probe into the alleged payment of kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore purchase deal of VVIP choppers by India from AugustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy´s Finmeccanica.

There are allegations of kickbacks worth 50 million euros in the scam, according to media reports.

"MoD is deputing a senior Joint Secretary to Italy to gather as much evidence as possible relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 12 AW 101 VVIP helicopters for Indian Air Force. The Official, Shri AK Bal, will be leaving for Rome as early as on Monday," said the defence ministry in a communique on Sunday.

Reports said from the CBI a DIG-level officer and a law officer would be on the team that is expected to meet the Italian prosecutors to acquire all the details related to the case.

The CBI decided to visit Italy after it reportedly failed to acquire some official information from the Defence Ministry in regard to the alleged kickbacks in the case, said reports on Saturday.

The Indian government has already ordered a CBI probe into the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers.

The bureau had received a letter from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe by it in the case along with the attachments of Indian and Italian press clippings, which according to the CBI is not sufficient to register a case.

CBI had also sought help of Indian Mission in Rome but it has failed to provide the bureau with any authenticated court documents, said reports.

The government on Friday issued show cause notice to the AgustaWestland on bribery charges in the 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 report by the investigators said that an alleged middleman for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland was seen touching the feet of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi.

The scandal 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.

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.

Meanwhile, in an interview to CNN IBN channel SP Tyagi´s cousin Sanjeev Tyagi, whose name has been dragged in the defence scam, has trashed allegations outright.

Referred to as Julie Tyagi by Italian investigators, he told the channel that "allegations against him and his cousin SP Tyagi were baseless and had maligned the image of their families."

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