Alleging that the procurement process in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal was violated, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Wednesday an inquiry in the case will focus on roles of those named in the judgment of an Italian court.
AgustaWestland was alleged to have paid Rs 375 crore as bribe to secure a Rs 3,700-crore contract to supply 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force. The contract for purchase of helicopters for the use of VVIPs was signed in 2010. The previous UPA government scrapped the deal over charges of kickbacks.
The multi-crore-rupee scam resurfaced last month after the names of some Congress leaders, including of party chief Sonia Gandhi, were said to have figured in a judgment of the Italian court.
On Wednesday, Parrikar said trials were not conducted on the model of the choppers bought by India but another one as the type mentioned in the deal was still being developed.
Parrikar said the former UPA regime created a “single-vendor situation” to benefit from the same. “It appears an ‘invisible hand’ was guiding the action or inaction of the CBI and ED,” he said.
“Italian court has proof that there was ‘malafide intent’ and there was corruption in matter is brought out in extensive details in judgments of a Milan court. The country wants to know who benefitted from the deal,” Parrikar said.
“The Italian court has said there are omissions at many stages and the deal was cancelled by the government after the CAG advice,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.
“Why field evaluation trials were conducted outside India. Field trial in India was extremely important because topographical conditions here (in India) differ from that of in the US and the UK,” he added.
Parrikar further said the UPA regime tried to take the longer route of writing to the embassy and the court instead of taking action against the company.
As soon as Parrikar concluded his speech, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said the defence minister’s speech was full of allegations.
Countering BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, former defence minister AK Antony earlier said “take action if you have evidence, but don’t threaten and blackmail us”.
“Don’t try to politicise this issue. You will have to repent later. After the first report in media on alleged scam in helicopter deal, we acted immediately,” Antony said. “We blacklisted six companies at one go. This sent out a message that we do not tolerate corruption,” he said.