This Article is From Jun 04, 2013

VVIP chopper deal: AgustaWestland on offensive, asks Indian government to clarify status of deal

VVIP chopper deal: AgustaWestland on offensive, asks Indian government to clarify status of deal
New Delhi: Even as the CBI continues its probe into the allegations of bribery in the Rs 4000-crore VVIP chopper deal, the Anglo-Italian manufacturer of the helicopters, AgustaWestland, has formally asked the Indian Defence Ministry to clarify its stand on the status of the 12-helicopter contract.

The CBI began its probe into the scam after Italian prosecutors alleged that officials of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, had bribed top Indian officials, including former Air Chief SP Tyagi, to land the contract for the choppers.

Although there was initially a possibility of the contract being terminated by the MoD, the ministry has so far refrained from doing so because of the ongoing CBI inquiry in India and the prosecution process in Italy.

Sources have told NDTV that no decision has been taken yet on what should be done with the first three Agusta helicopters that have been delivered to the Indian Air Force. Three more helicopters are ready for delivery in the UK but because of lack of clarity on the status of the contract, their fate continues to hang in balance.

In a letter to the MoD, Anglo-Italian defence giant AgustaWestland has said the company is constrained to invoke a contract clause and initiate formal legal process for bilateral discussion to resolve the dispute. This, sources say, might force the Defence Ministry to take a clear position on the status of the contract that involves supply of 12 helicopters for use by Indian Prime Minister and other top dignitaries.

In the letter, AgustaWestland's Managing Director Raymond Edwards has also denied any wrong doing and has said, "We can state unequivocally that we have never knowingly breached any procurement rules." He has also alleged that the company has not received any reply to its previous correspondence to the MoD.

Sources in the MoD have confirmed to NDTV that the ministry has received the April 16 letter from Agusta but has not replied to it yet.

Meanwhile, the CBI is preparing to send requests to Italy, UK, Tunisia and Mauritius seeking more information on Indian companies suspected to be involved in the Rs 4,000-crore scam.