Too early to say VVIP helicopter deal on chopping block: Salman Khurshid

Salman Khurshid

Emphasising that it is too early to say whether the VVIP helicopter deal with AgustaWestland is on the chopping block, Union Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said the government will take into account everything including public interest before making a decision on the contract.

"I don't think we should jump to any conclusions. This is something that has to be decided in best interests. At present, we are only at the stage of making inquiries, whether the integrity pact had in any way been violated, whether any contractual provisions have been violated," the External Affairs Minister told reporters here.

He was replying to a query on whether the helicopter deal was on the chopping block.

Noting that it is too early to say anything, Khurshid said, "I would imagine that people concerned in our government will take everything into account, the overall public interests in account, before a final decision is taken."

The minister said he is aware that a showcause notice has been sent to the Italian firm. "But when you make a query or inquiry about something which is of serious consequences, obviously it begins with showcause notice.

"But a showcause notice is a showcause notice. It is not a decision."

Finmeccanica CEO Giueseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested by Italian investigators last week in connection with the contract in which Rs 362 crore have been allegedly paid as kickbacks.

The Defence Ministry had initiated the process to scrap the deal for the Anglo-Italian AW-101 choppers, three of which have already been delivered to India for ferrying VVIPs.

The deal was signed in 2010 and the government has already paid around Rs 1,200 crore of the Rs 3,600 crore for the contracted 12 choppers, but it has put on hold any further payment.

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