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Government puts tainted Italian chopper deal on hold, say sources

CNN-IBN
Feb 13, 2013 at 11:25pm IST

New Delhi: The government has put on hold the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, sources said on Wednesday. The move came even as the government, under fire over allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal, announced a CBI probe. "Nobody will be spared whatever may be the consequences," Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters on the alleged scam.

The scam had unfolded with the arrest on Tuesday of the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company that is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for helicopters to ferry Indian VVIPs. The Ministry of Defence also decided to put on hold the receipt of the remaining nine of the 12 helicopters for which the Rs 3600 crore deal was struck in 2010.

ALSO SEE Chopper deal: Italy probe names Ex-Air Chief, India orders CBI investigation

Giuseppe Orsi, the head of Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, was arrested on Monday in relation to a probe into international corruption. He is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale to the Indian government of 12 helicopters produced by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland.

Antony said CBI has been asked to give an early report on its probe into alleged kickbacks in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal. "Once we get the preliminary inquiry report from CBI, strongest action will be taken against those found guilty," he said.

ALSO SEE CBI to begin probe in graft allegations in Italian chopper deal

Asked about reports of the alleged role of former IAF chief SP Tyagi in the deal, the Minister said, "I have no information." "After the CBI report, we will take serious action that may include cancelling the deal," he said. "We don't want to jump the gun. We can get our money back even at this stage," Antony said.

Meanwhile, Tyagi has denied involvement in the case and said changes in the helicopter tender were made before his tenure started. Speaking to CNN-IBN, he said that ex-NSA Brajesh Mishra wrote to the IAF suggesting lowering of height of choppers. "The IAF had nothing to do with it," he maintained.

ALSO SEE Nobody will be spared if found guilty in Italian chopper deal: AK Antony

He, however, said he is ready for an inquiry into the bribery case that led on Tuesday to the arrest of Orsi.

Tainted chopper deal: The big questions

ALSO SEE Ex-IAF Chief SP Tyagi denies involvement in Italian chopper deal, says is ready for inquiry

- Why is the Italian government not providing details of its investigation to India?

- What did the government do to pursue the case with Italy over the past two years?

- Will India make a fresh request for information to Italy and UK now?

- Why didn't the government order a CBI inquiry into the deal earlier?

- After Italy refused to share information, did the Centre explore India's options at all in the last 2 years?

- What did Defence Ministry's inquiry reveal? On what basis did AK Antony tell Parliament in 2012 that 'no specific probe is being conducted about India-related transactions by Rome'?

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