New Delhi: The Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal has now been put on hold by the government. In fact only 35 per cent of the payment has been done so far. With the deal on hold, all monetary transactions have been stopped and the delivery of the choppers too, has been frozen for now.
All those named by the Italian probe report, including former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi, have denied the allegations. SP Tyagi has also dragged in some crucial names including Brajesh Mishra, the former National Security Advisor during the NDA regime.
"When the requirements were made out, the height decided was 18,000 feet, subsequently we found that only one particular helicopter which met this requirement, because there was only one, we could have still bought, if there is only one of its kind. One problem was the government is always charry about handling a single vendor situation. Mr Brajesh Mishra who was then the NSA wrote to say that this helicopter doesn't meet the SPG's requirement and since there is no other helicopter available at this height, we need to change the requirements and it was then suggested, the height be changed," Tyagi said while speaking to CNN-IBN.
While SP Tyagi has named the NSA during Vajpayee's term, the Italian report has alleged that 51 million euro kickbacks were paid between 2005 and 2011, during the UPA regime. The kickbacks were paid in the form of monthly remittances disguised as payments for engineering contracts.
Italian officials say at least 21 million euros was paid from 2007 to 2011, making the UPA government accountable, as it was in power. The payments were allegedly made through two companies - IDS India and IDS Tunisia - and no taxes were paid on the same.
The report has a detailed list of payments which continued till as late as December 2012. The Rs 3,600 crore deal has also come under the scrutiny of the Enforcement Directorate. It is expected to lodge a criminal case of money laundering to probe the allegations.
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.
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.
Defence Minister AK 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.