Won't spare the guilty, cancellation depends on CBI inquiry: Antony
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He, however, did not respond clearly to questions about whether the deal would be scrapped. He said a call on the matter would be taken after the CBI inquiry, and that he would not hesitate to cancel it if wrongdoing was proven.
"Let CBI inquire this. Everything depends on CBI inquiry on this...We have already given this issue to the CBI. Let us see the progress of CBI inquiry. At any stage of the inquiry, if anybody is guilty, anywhere in the deals, they will have to pay the price," the minister said.
Replying to a question on whether the Special Protection Group (SPG) had an important role to play in clearing the deal even after objections were raised by his ministry, Antony said the case was indeed recommended by the SPG, but did not get into details.
"Initially Air Force and SPG, citing security reasons, they had recommended this case. Beyond that I cannot say anything at this moment. Everything is now with the CBI," he said.
"At this moment, I am not in the position to say anything about the details. Let the CBI inquire that. I don't want to say who is right, who is wrong. I am not a judge, I am not the investigating officer," Antony said.
Before ordering the CBI inquiry on Tuesday, the Defence ministry had for almost a year maintained that no action would be taken unless the Italians shared details of the formal probe with India.
The ministry now says action is likely to be taken on the basis of a preliminary inquiry report the CBI will file. "Once we get the preliminary inquiry report from CBI, strongest action will be taken against those found guilty," Antony said. He, however, added that he has no information yet on the role of former air chief S P Tyagi, who has been named in the Italian probe as a recepient of bribes.
"After the CBI report, we will take serious action that may include cancelling the deal...we don't want to jump the gun. We can get our money back even at this stage," Antony said, adding that there are provisions in the integrity pact by which we can "get back the entire money we paid to the vendor".
"Not a single pie from the Indian government we will lose. As per the DPP, any contract beyond Rs 300 crores, before finalising the contract, the vendor will have to sign an integrity pact with the government of India, agreeing to our conditions. If they violate that condition, they are liable to criminal action," the Defence minister said.