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AugustaWestland replies to Indian showcause

Posted on Feb 23, 02:16PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Feb 23 : AgustaWestland of UK, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, which was accused of bribery charges in the Rs.4000-crore VVIP chopper deal with Indian defence department, has replied to a showcause sent by the Indian authorities, denying all charges of paying kicbacks.

The reply by AgustaWestland on Friday denied any involvement of bribery in the deal and said it fully complied with the norms in honouring the defence requirement of India, media reports said.

An Indian probe team comprising CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and defence officials are in Italy to investigate the scam though without much success so far.

The government in India earlier initiated action for cancellation of contract and the Integrity pact for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs.

"The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has initiated action for cancellation of contract for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs," Ministry of Defence said in a statement last week.

"MoD today issued a formal show cause notice to the AgustaWestland of UK seeking cancellation of contract and taking other actions as per the terms of the contract and the Integrity Pact," the ministry said on Feb 15.

Besides bribing Indian officials for a 12-helicopter deal, Finmeccanica discussed kickbacks for a larger deal with a serving Brigadier in the Indian Army, Italian prosecutors had said.

The government had provided the company with a term of seven days to come clear on why the deal should not be cancelled.

The report by the investigators said that an alleged middleman for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland was seen touching the feet of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi.

The scandal scandal involved kickbacks worth upto Rs 360 crores for the deal that was worth about Rs 4,000 crores and allegedly took place during the tenure of Tyagi who headed the air force from 2004 to 2007.

Tyagi has denied the allegations and has said that he met one of the alleged AgustaWestland middlemen just once contrary to the charges of "six or seven" meetings.

The middleman Ralph Haschke has "confessed" that he met Tyagi six or seven times and once greeted him by touching his feet as a sign of respect, the Italian prosecutors have said.

The Italian inquiry has also found that in 2003, a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army allegedly demanded $5 million dollars to influence a contract for 197 light helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland.

Tyagi's family members were also linked to the scam but his brother vehemently denied it.

Italian police earlier arrested Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal.