"No decision to blacklist AgustaWestland"
New Delhi, Mar 6 : Defence Minister AK Antony on Wednesday said the government has not taken any decision on blacklisting AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy's Finmeccanica, in connection to the VVIP chopper scam.
In a written reply in Rajya Sabha, Antony said: "A Show Cause Notice has been sent to M/s Agusta Westland, U.K. on 15th February, 2013 asking them to explain as to why steps should not be initiated for cancellation of the Contract. The operation of the Contract has been put on hold and further payments to M/s Agusta Westland, U.K. stopped. No decision to blacklist the Company has so far been taken."
He said 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs) procurement deal was cancelled due to the AugustaWestland chopper scam.
Antony said: "The proposal for acquisition of 197 Light Utility Helicopters is due for consideration of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC). The procurement procedure has been conducted in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure."
"No formal enquiry has been instituted in the case of procurement of the 197 Light Utility Helicopters," he said.
Speaking on the chopper scam, Antony said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) on Feb 25.
"Following reports of the arrest of the Chief Executive of Finmeccanica in connection with the investigations in Italy regarding alleged wrong doing and unethical conduct by M/s Finmeccanica, parent company of M/s Agusta Westland, U.K., the CBI was asked on February 12, 2013 to conduct an enquiry into the matter. The CBI has registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) on February 25, 2013 in this matter," he said.
"Further details will be available on receipt of report of CBI," he said.
Antony said while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had received a letter dated Dec 14, 2012 from Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Prakash Javadekar on the subject matter, media reports relating to alleged payment of kickbacks/bribes by M/s Finmeccanica started surfacing since February 2012.
"Ever since then, MoD has pursued the matter with the Embassy in Rome to get credible information regarding the status of investigation and authenticity of the documents/records being cited in various media reports," Antony said.
"Given the independence of the Italian Judiciary from the executive and the preliminary investigations being covered by 'Secrecy' clause under the Italian law, no concrete information was received.
"The matter was also taken up, through the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) with the U.K. Government in view of the alleged involvement of a British consultant and the fact that the contract had been signed with M/s Agusta Westland, U.K," he said.
Antony said the UK side informed MEA that they have not launched any investigation and are awaiting the results of the Italian investigation in order to ascertain whether any further action needs to be taken. "MoD had, thus, taken prompt action to seek factual information from the concerned Authorities."
British Prime Minister David Cameron has 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 Feb 19.
The Indian PM said he conveyed to Cameron the very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for Agusta Westland helicopters.
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, earlier 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.