New Delhi: The government on Tuesday deferred a decision on a deal to buy 197 light-utility helicopters pending completion of an investigation into kickback allegations, the latest setback to efforts to upgrade the country's ageing arsenal.
Meanwhile, the Army has asked the government to probe charges that a Brigadier had sought a bribe of Rs 25 crore from AgustaWestland, an issue that has led to stalling of procurement of 197 light choppers.
The allegations against the Brigadier surfaced during investigations into the VIP chopper deal about the alleged involvement of Finmeccanica in paying kickbacks to secure the Indian contract for 12 VVIP choppers.
The allegations have led to delay in the finalisation of the deal for 197 helicopters for the Army and the IAF to replace its fleet of vintage Cheetah and Chetak choppers. The proposal has been in the pipeline for quite some time.
Recently, in a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, the Ministry had asked the Army to take "responsibility" that there was no wrongdoing in the charges against the officer after which the force asked the Government to conduct a probe before taking any further decision, Defence Ministry source said.
The DAC also has to take a call on whether to allow the deviations from the tendering process by the two companies and a Special Technical Oversight Committee (STOC) has submitted its report in this regard.
After the charges came up, the Ministry had asked the Italian government to provide the name and relevant documents relating to the alleged involvement of the Brigadier in the ongoing process for acquisition of 197 helicopters for the Army.
Defence deals have drawn heavy scrutiny in recent months after allegations of bribery surfaced in the $ 750 million VVIP chopper deal.
The government is now considering whether to blacklist AgustaWestland over the VVIP deal. It had placed six defence companies on a blacklist in 2012 because of corruption allegations.
With Additional Inputs From PTI