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AgustaWestland deal: UK willing to help India in probe, assures British PM

CNN-IBN
Feb 19, 2013 at 04:06pm IST

New Delhi: British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday the UK is willing to cooperate with any Indian enquiry on tainted AgustaWestland chopper deal. Cameron made the statement during a press conference, which was held after the meeting between Cameron and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Rs 3600 Italian chopper deal was discussed during the meeting and India conveyed strong concerns over the allegations, PM Manmohan said. "I conveyed to Prime Minister Cameron that we have very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing 2010 contract for AgustaWestland choppers," he told reporters.

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Cameron, who landed in Delhi on Tuesday morning from Mumbai, said, "We will respond to any request on information on AgustaWestland. I am glad Italy is looking into details. In Britain, we have introduced anti-bribery legislation that is probably the strongest anywhere in the world".

India has met and written to British officials on investigation, while the UK has only provided India an interim reply. India wants a full reply on queries on AgustaWestland, which is a UK subsidiary of Italian defence major Finmeccanica.

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On Monday, Cameron had virtually washed his hands off the chopper deal calling it a matter "between India and Italy" and that he had no doubts over the dealings of AgustaWestland in Britain. Speaking to the BBC, Cameron asserted Britain has some of the toughest anti-bribery laws, adding, "people know if they do business with British companies, they have those protections."

He termed AgustaWestland as an excellent company with highly skilled workers "who make brilliant helicopters". When asked if Britain would carry out a probe into the issue, the Prime Minister told the BBC, "UK's Serious Fraud Office itself will decide whether to look into the claims of bribery in the AgustaWestland chopper deal...We have totally independent investigating and prosecuting authorities in the UK, and they are at liberty to act or not."

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Meanwhile, a Central Bureau of Investigation team flew to Italy on Tuesday morning to probe whether firms were floated in India to route kickbacks in the 2010 deal.

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