It is a matter of deep concern as to why the government did not initiate any inquiry in the purchase and supply of AgustaWestland helicopters through the Italian defence company Finmeccanica in spite of serious allegations coming in public domain for the last about an year that huge commission to the tune of nearly Rs. 350 Cr. have been paid in the Rs. 3546 Cr. deal making it a case of rank corruption because payment of a commission is a crime in terms of purchase norms.
In this connection the following issues are important:
- The contract was supposed to have been finalised in the year 2007 with the AgustaWestland and the contract was signed in Feb 2010.
- Serious question has been raised for the last about an year including in the newspapers notably The Indian Express about the deal having sparked of corruption row in Italy.
- There has been series of reports about involvement of Indian middle man as well some of whom were very close to a former Air Chief. The news channel Times Now had published a well researched report on 27th march 2012 which showed that AgustaWestland through an agreement with Ganton Limited has agreed to pay 8 to 15 percent of commission for the proposed sale of helicopters to Delhi Police. This only confirmed that the helicopter company does offer and pay commission and it lent great credence to the allegation of corruption requiring proper inquiry.
- In the light of all this why did the government not inquire into the matter and the defence minister Mr Anthony even told the Parliament that there is nothing wrong.
- Obviously the Italian authorities were investigating the corruption charges against the supplier company Finmeccanica and ultimately arrested even the CEO of this company on bribery charges in the helicopter deal with India.
- The contention of the government of India that no information came from Italy is patently untenable for the following reasons:
a. Did the government approach the Italian government at the highest level seeking information?
b. Did the Italian ambassador was summoned and impressed about the urgency of the matter?
c. Did the ministry of Defence send its officials to Italy to get the information?
- Obviously some one for some reason was trying to delay investigation when the own country i.e. Italy was undertaking extensive inquiry into bribery charges.
- A very legitimate question arises because of the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding inaction was the fact that had the company’s Italian connection something to do about it. We all know how in the Bofors case the Congress government sought to bail-out Quattrocchi.
- Scam, scandal and corruption has become the defining feature of this government which keeps on appearing with alarming regularity causing great loss to government revenue. This is the most corrupt union government since independence. The BJP is determined to raise this issue inside and outside Parliament and seek accountability from the PM, Sonia Gandhi and the defence minister. The BJP also demands that the entire helicopter deal must be put on hold and reviewed.
- Most importantly the country must know who have received the commission and kickback when it is admitted by the Italian prosecution that huge commission has been paid.
Ravi Shankar Prasad is the deputy leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Chief Spokesperson, BJP