No decision on debarring AgustaWestland: Antony
The central government has not taken a decision to debar AgustaWestland, following the cancellation of a contract with it for supply of 12 VVIP helicopters, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday.
Antony said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha that the government was taking steps to get stay obtained by the company in a tribunal in Milan vacated for encashment of advance bank guarantees.
Antony said the contract for supply of 12 VVIP/VIP helicopters signed with AgustaWestland International Limited (AWIL) Feb 8, 2010 was terminated by the government Jan 1 this year for breach of provisions of the pre-contract integrity pact and breach of the terms of the contract by the company.
He said subsequent to the termination of the contract, two bank guarantees amounting to about Rs.240 crore have been encashed.
He said advance bank guarantees were provided by the seller on Deutsche Bank, Milan and demand has been made for their encashment.
"However, the seller has obtained an interim stay from the Ordinary Tribunal of Milan, Italy against this. Steps are underway to get the stay vacated," Antony said.
On a query about blacklisting of AgustaWestland, Antony said: "No decision has been taken till date to debar the said company."
AgustaWestland is a British subsidiary of Italian firm Finmeccanica.
In another statement in the Rajya Sabha on the VVIP chopper deal, Antony Wednesday said the authenticity of "notes" pointing fingers at Indian leaders was "not proved".
The minister made the statement after reports said middlemen in the AgustaWestland deal were trying to target certain Indian leaders.
The minister said the government has received "one unsigned handwritten paper".
He said the transcript of the hearing of arrested middleman Guido Haschke has also been received.
"There is another unsigned document purported to be written by Mr. Christian (Michel) to the attention of one Mr. Peter Hulet for high commissioner to target certain Indian leaders," Antony said.
"The authenticity of these documents is not proved. The case is presently in progress in the Italian court," he said.
According to reports, the note was written by Michel to an AgustaWestland official in India to ask a "High Commissioner" to target Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her close advisers Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee and Veerappa Moily.
Antony said that after the arrest of senior officials of Finmeccanica in Italy, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a preliminary inquiry in February 2013 which has now been converted into a regular case "against former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi and 18 other people and companies. CBI has issued Letters Rogatory for witnesses and evidence".
He said representatives of the defence ministry, CBI and the external affairs ministry have been attending hearings in Italy's Court of Busto Arsizio in Milan in the case going on there.
The issue was raised in the upper house by BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad, who said later that the minister's reply "concealed more than it revealed".
"Why in't there any categorical denial? Michel's letter clearly names Sonia Gandhi. He said Sonia Gandhi was the driving force," Prasad said.
(Posted on 05-02-2014)