Corruption in chopper deal: Antony vows strong action

FP
The government is making "serious and sincere" efforts to get details of the ongoing probe in Italy into corruption allegations in the 2010 VVIP helicopter deal, Defence Minister A K Antony said here on Saturday. Strong action would be taken if foul play is detected, he asserted, without elaborating.

"We have already written to the Italian government through the Ministry of External Affairs about the media reports to get the details — whether any middlemen were involved or any Indian entities, as this is not permitted in our laws... If there is any iota of truth in the media reports, if there is any foul play or mischief, we will take strong action," he said, adding that action could also be taken against the helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland.

India had sig-ned a deal with AgustaWestland to procure the 12 VVIP helicopters in 2010. As brought out by a series of reports in The Indian Express, an Italian probe into international corruption charges had zeroed in on the Rs 3,546-crore deal. An investigation report filed in a Naples court suggests that 51 million euros was paid as commission to swing the deal. It also names Indians as well as middlemen allegedly involved in the deal.

"The contract is with a particular company based in the UK. We have also requested the MEA to take up the case with the UK," Antony said on the sidelines of a function.

However, he refused to commit to a CBI probe on the matter, saying the ministry will first study details of the case that had been sought from Italy and the UK.

Antony also declined to comment on a report that qualitative requirements of the VVIP chopper deal had been changed, merely saying that requirements for procurement were prepared by the Services headquarters.

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