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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

PM wants Cameron's help in probe in chopper scam

Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 19, 2013
First Published: 14:15 IST(19/2/2013) | Last Updated: 09:00 IST(20/2/2013)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday conveyed to his British counterpart David Cameron his "serious concerns" over allegations of kickbacks surrounding the Rs. 3,760-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal and sought his country's assistance in investigating the charges.

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Offering all help, Cameron said the UK would respond to any request for information involving the 2010 agreement for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters.

AgustaWestland is the British subsidiary of Italian aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica whose chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi was arrested early this month on allegations of bribery to secure the contract.

According to Italian investigators, one of the middlemen, Christian Michel, is based in London.

The Italian firm on Tuesday insisted it acted “correctly” and was "ready to cooperate with the Indian authorities in order to clarify the matter”.

“I conveyed to Prime Minister Cameron our very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for AgustaWestland helicopters", Singh said at a joint press conference.

India had asked AugsutaWestland to examine by February 22 if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the integrity pact were violated, he said.

"Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigations", Singh said.

"In Britain, we have introduced anti-bribery legislation that is probably the strongest anywhere in the world. And we will root out any problems of bribery or corruption

wherever they appear, and whenever they appear," said Cameron, who is on a three-day India visit.

The case has serious implications for the UK. All the helicopters are being built in Yeovil, in South Somerset. Three of the AW101s have been delivered, and the remaining nine are expected to be ready by year end. Agusta is Yeovil's biggest employer with 3,500 people on the rolls.

The two leaders, said Singh, also discussed trade ties. The UK is now the third largest investor in India, which, in turn, is its fifth largest investor.

"We discussed the prospects of enhanced cooperation in the development of the defence industrial base of India through greater emphasis on technology transfer, co-development and co-production" Singh said.

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