With parliament scheduled to meet in two days, the government is prepping for accusations from the opposition of allowing a helicopter scam to unfold on its watch. Defence Minister AK Antony said today that details of the CBI investigation commissioned last week into the 4000-crore deal for Italian helicopters will be shared with parliament.
He cautioned, "If you raise a doubt on every deal, it will affect
our preparedness. Our neighbourhood is hostile and military needs to
He pointed out that in recent years, six defence manufacturers had been blacklisted for allegedly misusing middlemen. The ban, he said, signals the government's commitment to checking corruption in defence deals. (Watch)
"I am sad, in spite of taking all precautions... we blacklisted 6 companies for bribery - I thought that will be a warning to everyone... still greedy people are working around the world," Mr Antony said, as he asserted that he will not resign over the scandal.
The contract was signed with AgustaWestland or AW in 2006, when President Pranab Mukherjee was Defence Minister. Last week, Italian investigators arrested the head of AW's parent company, Finmecannica, for paying bribes worth 350 crores in India. The developments in Italy created a firestorm in Delhi.
A CBI team has landed in Italy, but India was told on Saturday that Italian documents detailing the alleged bribes and middlemen cannot be shared just yet by a local court. (Read)
With national elections scheduled for next year, the government is already battling the perception of intrinsic graft, courtesy a long list of financial scandals in sectors ranging from telecom to coal.
The Italian inquiry says that Indian officials were paid to revise the tender for helicopters to create a virtually bespoke contract for AW. The government has tried to deflect the blame by stating that the changes to the contract were instructed by its predecessor in 2003. But the revisions were authorized in 2006 after Dr Manmohan Singh's coalition came to power, and the deal was signed in 2010.