New Delhi: Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on AgustaWestland chopper deal, AK Antony said he was ashamed of the "scam" as a Defence Minister. He assured that the government will investigate the matter and punish the culprits. "Anybody involved (in the scam) will have to face serious consequences...the government is determined to find out the truth," said the Union Minister on Wednesday.
Antony said scams taking place in the country were a matter of shame and would be dealt with seriousness. "Culprits must be punished. Tax payers' money cannot be wasted," he said. The Defence Minister also told the House that the government had ordered an inquiry into the matter as soon as it came to light and that every complaint received in connection with the issue was being taken seriously.
"Six powerful foreign companies have been blacklisted by my ministry," Antony said in the Rajya House. He further added that a CBI inquiry was also ordered in the case. "Names of 11 individuals and four companies have come up in the investigation," he said.
Antony said the government followed all procedures in the case and tried hard to procure documents from the Italian authorities but they "officially refused to share any information regarding the case as per their law".
The Defence Minister said "strongest possible action" would be taken against the culprits once the CBI completes its investigation and files a report in the case. "Whoever is found guilty will get maximum punishment," he said. Antony also said the government was willing to conduct a JPC probe into the "scam".
The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, wasn't convinced by the Defence Minister's explanation as Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha that "there was a sense of helplessness in the Defence Minister's speech".
"We suspect the government does not want to know the name of the bribe taker," he added. Jaitley accused the government of not being serious about finding the truth in the case. "The government has given culprits enough time to destroy all evidence," he alleged.
Jaitley asked the government to explain why it had not registered an FIR in the case. "Is the government willing to have a JPC headed by an Opposition MP," he challenged.
Earlier, another BJP leader slammed the government on the issue saying if leads were available in the case, why did the government not initiate a probe into the matter. "The issue is not about the quality of helicopters but about kickbacks, the middlemen are known. The government needs to find out about the receivers," BJP MP Ravi Shankar Prasad said in the Rajya Sabha. He also demanded that a "time-bound" investigation should be conducted in the matter.