India to Scrap Italian Helicopter Deal if CBI Probe Reveals Malpractice: Defence Minister
By ambrosia sabrina | February 13, 2013 7:39 PM EST
The government on Tuesday ordered a CBI probe into a ₹4000 crore helicopter deal after Italian defence company Finmeccanica's chief executive Giuseppe Orsi was arrested for allegedly bribing Indian officials to secure the 2010 contract.
Defence Minister AK Anthony, who ordered the probe, said on Wednesday that if evidence of malpractice was found then India will take all possible action against those involved, including scrapping the contract for the sale of 12 helicopters that were manufactured by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestlandand.
"We are examining everything seriously, everything depends on the CBI probe," he said but cautioned against "jumping to conclusions" before the report was out, reported NDTV.
On his part, Orsi denied any irregularities in the deal. He had been under investigation for several months and his company was probed on similar charges with other nations since the last three years.
After securing Orsi's arrest in Milan, Italian prosecutors in the same warrant served on Orsi alleged that three cousins of Air Force Chief SP Tyagi received kickbacks to the order of 100,000 euros to tweak the terms in the helicopter tender to accommodate AgustaWestland helicopters in the bid. The changes involved lowering the altitude specification to 15,000 feet from 18,000 feet and introducing an engine failure flying test, Reuters reported.
Under the deal, the choppers will be used by the Indian president, prime minister and other officials who are generally not flown at high-altitude levels. Out of the 12 choppers to be sent to India, three were already sold. The delivery of the remaining nine will be put on hold.
The ministry is expected to review the contract since its proposal in 2003 until its signing in 2010.
Denying the allegations of his cousins' involvement in the deal, Tyagi told IBN Live, "I have been in touch with my cousins, who know nothing about the deal. The deal was finalised three years after I retired. Frankly I have no idea what influence I could have brought about (in the deal). To the best of my knowledge, no requirement was tweaked or changed."
Anthony said he cannot comment on Tyagi's alleged role in the deal. "Unless I get some information, we cannot take names," he said, reported NDTV.
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