India’s decision on Wednesday to cancel the controversial deal with AgustaWestland for the supply of 12 helicopters to the Indian Air Force is likely to have serious repercussions on the Anglo-Italian company’s production plant in Yeovil, Somerset.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had publicly backed the helicopters during his visit to India in February last year. The visit was clouded by allegations that bribes had been paid by the company to secure the multi-crore deal.
The 12 helicopters were being assembled at the Yeovil plant. Three had been delivered under the contract, while the remaining are under various stages of production. AgustaWestland UK is Yeovil’s major employer with 3,200 permanent staff and 1,500 sub-contractors.
A spokesperson of AgustaWestland said the firm had not received any communication from India about the cancellation. "The company is therefore unable to comment beyond reiterating the denial of allegations of wrongdoing." January 1 is a public holiday in Britain.
During his visit to India, Cameron had said that the bribery allegations would not stop him from lobbying for the company. "My message to workers in Yeovil is that they are highly skilled, highly respected workers."
Calling AgustaWestland UK "an excellent company with a talented workforce and superb products", Cameron had said the bribery scandal was "for the Italian and Indian authorities to deal with".
According to him, Britain had "the toughest bribery laws in the world".
News of the cancellation of the India contract comes days after AgustaWestland won a 1-billion-pound helicopter supply contract with the Norwegian government in mid-December. The Yeovil plant will supply 16 AW101 helicopters plus support and training under the contract.