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Choppergate: Indian probe team reach Italy

Posted on Feb 19, 04:42PM | IBNS

Milan, Feb 19 : A joint Indian investigating team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) reached Italy on Tuesday to probe the AugustaWestland chopper deal.

"The joint team of CBI, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs officials will first meet officials at the Indian embassy before they try and meet the prosecutor to understand the case," CNN-IBN reported.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, on Tuesday assured Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cooperation in the AugustaWestland chopper scandal.

Both Singh and Cameron discussed the issue during their meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday, they said in a joint press briefing.

The Indian PM said he conveyed to Prime Minister Cameron the very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for Agusta Westland helicopters.

"I told him that we have sought an explanation from the company by February 22 to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the Integrity Pact have been violated. I have sought full assistance from the U.K. in this case. Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his Government in the investigations," said Singh.

David Cameron, who is visiting India, earlier on Monday said he will ensure that UK-based AugustaWestland continues to retain its reputation.

Defence Miniser AK Antony earlier in the day ruled out resigning over the AugustaWestland chopper scam and said there is no rift in the government or with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) over the deal.

He told a press conference that the government is ready to face Parliament over the issue. "There is no political decision in India in procurement [defence purchase]," he said.

He said if there is any foul play action will be taken and "we will show no mercy."

"We are trying to get details of the investigation from the Italian government," said Antony.

Antony informed that six companies were blacklisted and that is a warning though "greedy people are working around the world."

He said "there is no question of a rift with the Ministry of External Affairs" and assured that the deal will be scrapped if any bribery was proved.

Meanwhile, the Italian prosecutors, who named former Air Force chief SP Tyagi as a part of the alleged payment of kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore purchase deal of VVIP choppers by India from AugustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy's Finmeccanica, said they have enough evidence against Tyagi for framing the charges.

There are allegations of kickbacks worth 50 million euros in the scam, according to media reports.