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Chopper deal row: Sonia says she’s not afraid, graft charges false

Fresh revelations in the VVIP chopper scam had raised questions about the role of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in awarding the Rs 3,727-crore contract to UK-based AgustaWestland.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2016 18:46 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Sonia Gandhi,AgustaWestland deal,Sonia Gandhi on Agusta deal
File photo of Congress president Sonia Gandhi at an election campaign rally in Kolkata India. (Shubhankar Chakraborty / HT Photo )

A combative Sonia Gandhi tore into the BJP-led government on Wednesday, accusing it of indulging in “character assassination” by linking her and other Congress leaders to a controversial chopper deal that was scrapped during the previous UPA administration.

“I am not afraid of anyone cornering me as there is no basis to that. All the accusations they are throwing at us are false,” the Congress president Gandhi told reporters in the Parliament complex in the backdrop of a renewed debate over the 2010 AgustaWestland chopper deal.

The deal came under the spotlight after an Italian court of appeals reversed the verdict of a lower court that held that corruption charges could not be proved. The higher court found two top Italian executives guilty of corruption.

AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, allegedly paid more than Rs 375 crore as bribe to secure the Rs 3,727-crore contract to supply 12 VVIP helicopters to the Indian Air Force.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice on Wednesday after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy mentioned Gandhi’s name while referring to allegations made by one of the middlemen in the deal. Her name was expunged after noisy protests by Congress MPs.

Gandhi asked the Modi government what it had done during the last two years and why it hadn’t concluded the probe into the deal.

Read | AgustaWestland deal: New flashpoint between Cong, BJP in Parliament

Watch | Sonia Gandhi on Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scam

“Where are the proofs. They are lying. They are part of a strategy of character assassination which we have known these people indulge in,” she said referring to the BJP’s allegations against Congress leaders.

Her political secretary and senior Congress leader, Ahmed Patel, also dismissed the allegations against him.

“They (the government) are saying all these things outside and inside Parliament, why can’t they investigate…If there is something against me, they should find out and hang me.”

Read | Skeletons in closet: Five point guide to the AgustaWestland deal

First Published: Apr 27, 2016 13:11 IST