AgustaWestland defiant, asks India for proof

FP

Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland has questioned the allegations of wrongdoing in the IAF's controversial VVIP chopper deal and sought evidence to back the charges of graft that threaten to cancel the contract for 12 helicopters.

It has also told the defence ministry that it expects payments would continue for the aircraft that are yet to be delivered.

In a detailed reply to the government's showcause notice on terminating the deal, the company has asked India to furnish solid proof of wrongdoing in the case and has said that the contract cannot be cancelled on the basis of "adverse media speculations".

Pointing out that three helicopters have already been delivered, AgustaWestland has also said that it expects India to continue making payments for the remaining nine. The defence ministry has said that all future payments have been frozen due to the corruption allegations.

"As you are aware, three helicopters together with associated spares, support equipment, training and technical publications have finally been accepted in accordance with the contract. The company is continuing to perform the contract so as to deliver the remaining aircraft and expect to be paid in a timely manner," the AgustaWestland reply says.

While the CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry in the case, Defence ministry officials said they will now pursue three documents - a CBI report, the AgustaWestland reply and a report by its joint secretary A S Bal who had gone to Italy last week - before taking a final call.

Contending that "media speculations" cannot be ground for cancellation of the deal, AgustaWestland has even warned the ministry that cancellation would have an adverse impact on the "good image" of the firm.

"You will appreciate that such a preemptory course of action would result in unjustified harm to the worldwide good name and reputation of AgustaWestland and cause it to incur substantial financial losses," the company has said.

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