Fresh revelations in the VVIP chopper scam have raised questions about the role of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in awarding the Rs 3,727-crore contract to UK-based AgustaWestland. The Congress is on the defensive, with the BJP seeking to discuss the controversial deal in Parliament.
So, here is a look at what the deal is all about and why it is making news now:
What is the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal?
India signed a contract with AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica, in February 2010 for 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters. It beat off competition from US rival Sikorsky to win the contract.
Why has the controversy resurfaced?
The deal came back in focus in early April after an Italian court of appeals reversed the verdict of a lower court that held corruption could not be proved. But the higher court in Milan found former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland ex-CEO Bruno Spagnolini guilty of corruption and awarded them jail terms. The court said the UPA government did little to get to the bottom of the scandal and didn’t share documents with investigators.
When was the contract put on hold?
It was put on hold in February 2013 after Orsi and Spagnolini were arrested on graft charges. The UPA government terminated the contract in January 2014, invoking an integrity pact. The firm allegedly paid middlemen more than Rs 375 crore.
Who was bribed?
Guido Haschke, one of the middlemen, made references such as “POL,” “AP” and “FAM” in a hand-written note, ostensibly pointing to the initials of politicians and bureaucrats who allegedly had to be “handled.” Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and his cousins are among those accused of taking bribes.
What did the CAG have to say about the deal?
In an August 2013 report, the Comptroller and Auditor General said the revision of IAF’s requirements in 2006 restricted competition and led to a single-vendor situation that benefitted AgustaWestland. It pointed out frequent deviations from rules to award the contract.