New Delhi: India will cancel a deal to buy 12 helicopters from Italian defence giant Finmeccanica if allegations of bribery are proven against the company, Defence Minister AK Antony said.
"If anybody is guilty, they will have to pay the price... no one will be spared," Mr Antony said of the 4,000-crore deal which was signed in 2010 and will now be investigated by the CBI. "If we find any evidence of corruption then we will blacklist the company and even cancel the deal," he said, cautioning, "We don't want to jump the gun... (but) we can get our money back at any stage."
The minister said that he cannot respond to reports in Italy that former Air Force Chief SP Tyagi is linked to the controversy. "I have no information on S P Tyagi. Unless I get some information, we cannot take names," Mr Antony said.
Mr Tyagi has denied allegations that he influenced the deal. "I am innocent," he said today, and pointed out that India signed the deal for the 12 executive helicopters in 2010, three years after he retired. (Met alleged middleman, but no dealings with him: ex-Air Force chief)
Italian police arrested Finmeccanica's chief executive Giuseppe Orsi on Tuesday for alleged bribes paid in India to land a contract from the Indian Air Force for 12 AgustaWestland executive helicopters intended for VVIPs like the President and Prime Minister. In documents, Italian prosecutors have alleged that three brothers, who are cousins of Mr Tyagi, were used to influence officials in India and tweak the tender in favour of the Italian firm. (Foreign media on VVIP chopper controversy)
The Defence Ministry in India says its own enquiry into the VVIP chopper deal has not exhumed financial malpractices, but it commissioned a CBI inquiry within hours of the arrest in Italy. Three of the 12 choppers have already been delivered to Delhi.
The state-controlled Finmeccanica group has been investigated in Italy for three years for allegedly paying bribes in different countries and at home. The company has refuted the charges.
Mr Antony criticised Italy for not responding to requests for information. "From day one, we have been trying to find out the truth and we conveyed that to them," he said. "So far we have not received any details."