VVIP chopper deal: Middlemen should have no role in military contracts, says Russia

Chopper scam
Asserting that middlemen in defence deals provide "extra potential" for corruption, Russia, one of India's biggest defence partners, has said there should be no role for such people when military contracts are being negotiated and signed.

The remarks by Russia came amidst a ranging controversy over alleged kickbacks and role of middlemen in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter deal with an Italian firm Finmeccanica.

"In such important fields, that is technical and military cooperation, no mediators (should be there) because any mediator provides extra potential for corruption," Valentina Matvienko, chairperson of the Federation Council, Russian parliament's upper house, said here.

She was replying to a question about role of middlemen and Italy's three-time former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi comments that bribes are a necessary part of doing business globally.

Maintaining that India-Russia defence deals are clean, Russia's highest-ranking female politician said, "During the last 10 years, luckily, we did not see any case of corruption".

"All this cooperation is based on inter-governmental agreements. So no mediators here can be present. It is performed directly through governmental structures that are empowered to do so in the field of military and technical cooperation," she said.

"So that is why it should be done directly on the level of two countries," Matvienko, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladmir Putin, said.

In 2012, Russia's total military exports hit a record sum of $15 billion.

The biggest importer of Russian military equipment is India, which bought 350 T-90S tanks and ordered another 1,500.

India is also operating 150 modern Su-30MKI multi-role fighter planes. The target is to have 270 Su-30MKI multi-role fighters by 2015-16.

During Putin's visit here in December, a contract was signed for another 42 such fighters aircraft, to be delivered as assembly kits that India will assemble in its own factories.

Moreover, Russia is building a fifth-generation aircraft with India, as well as the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile.

In addition, the modernisation of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is being undertaken by Russia for the Indian Navy.

However, despite a long history of defence ties, new players in the Indian defence arena are offering a competition to Russia.

Russia had lost the bids for supply of multi-role fighter planes, helicopter gunships and heavy-lift helicopters.

"The military cooperation between the two countries is indeed important in our relations. Though new exporters of military equipment appear in Indian market, Russia is still in the leading position," Matvienko said.

She said despite the growing competition, Russia has preserved its leading position.

"And that speaks for the trust in our relations on one hand. On the other hand, that speaks for competitiveness, high quality and good price for Russian equipments...

"We are looking for news forms of cooperation in military and technical fields. We are not selling only the ready-made equipments but we are looking for development of new technology through joint research programme, joint enterprises in order to produce new equipments," she said.

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