CBI likely to register PE

In an indication that it has found sufficient evidence to probe the VVIP chopper kickbacks row, the CBI is likely to soon register a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) into the matter after its two-member team returns from Italy on Sunday night.

The CBI team, that had gone to Italy along with a senior Joint Secretary from the Defence Ministry, is learnt to have collected some material regarding the case during the visit and will be analysing it over the next days. Sources said the CBI team had useful meetings during the visit and managed to interact with prosecutors in the corruption row as well as officials at Finmeccanica.

After looking through the material collected during the visit, the CBI will take a call on when to register the PE. A regular case may not be lodged yet as the investigating team is looking for more evidence.

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry has received a detailed reply to the show-cause notice that it had served on AgustaWestland last week, asking the company why the contract should not be cancelled after reports that the firm hired middlemen to bag the deal. In its reply, the company has denied any wrong doing and has said it has complied with Indian legal requirements and is confident that it will be absolved in the case that is being probed by Italian investigators.

While the Defence Ministry has said it has started the process of the cancellation of the Rs 3,546-crore deal, a final decision on the contract will be taken on the basis of the CBI report as well as a perusal of the documents on the case. The ministry has already stopped all payments to AgustaWestland for the contract.

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