New Delhi: In its first official statement on the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, the defence ministry on Thursday said the primary issue is corruption and it will "leave no stone unturned" to bring out the truth.
The statement also said investigation agencies are pursuing all aspects, including the arrests and extradition of "foreign nationals" Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke Ralph and Christian Michel James. All three are alleged to be middlemen in the over Rs 3,000 crore deal with AgustaWestland for 12 VVIP helicopters inked in 2010.
A day after Congress accused the government of trying to help blacklisted AgustaWestland and asked why action was not taken, the statement said "questions have been raised on certain trivial technicalities, which appear to be intended to distract attention from the core issue of corruption."
"Publicly available information on the procurement of AgustaWestland helicopters clearly shows that the core issue in the matter is corruption."
"The present government has taken effective action to bring out the truth and will leave no stone unturned in pursuing all means to bring to justice the corrupt and the wrong-doers in this case. The time taken is largely because some of the key perpetrators of this misdeed are outside the country," it said.
"Some of the facts are being highlighted here to put the issue in correct perspective."
The statement gave out the details of the scam that led to cancellation of the deal for VVIP choppers and said the contract for 12 helicopters signed with AWIL on 8 February, 2010 was terminated on 1 January, 2014.
The main reason was breach of the provisions of the pre-contract 'Integrity Pact' and breach of terms of contract by AWIL. However, the company was not debarred by the order. Various bonds and bank guarantees were invoked, the statement said.
It added that it was the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in an order on 3 July, 2014, "put on hold" all procurement and acquisition cases in the pipeline of six companies figuring in the FIR registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The firms are -- AgustaWestland International Ltd., UK, Finmeccanica, Italy and its group of companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, IDS, Tunisia, Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, IDS Infotech Ltd., Mohali and Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt. Ltd, Chandigarh.
"No new capital procurement has been made thereafter from these companies in the tenure of the present Government," the statement clarified, a day after Congress alleged the Narendra Modi government was trying to help the tainted company make its way back.
The Congress on Wednesday alleged India's Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) gave final approval to Indian Rotorcraft Limited (IRL) - a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Tata - to produce upgraded versions of the AW119 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter in India.
"A mention has been made regarding clearance of a joint venture involving AgustaWestland by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. This proposal was approved on September 2, 2011 based on an application by Indian Rotorcraft Ltd., a joint venture of Tata Sons with AgustaWestland NV, Netherlands. This was later changed to AgustaWestland S.p.A, Italy due to re-organisation within the group. On 7 February 2012, an industrial licence for the manufacture of helicopters was granted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to Indian Rotorcraft Ltd," the statement said.
"However, the validity of the licence has since expired," it added.
The statement also said that "on the core issue of corruption", the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) are "vigorously pursuing" all aspects of the investigation, including the arrests and extradition of three foreign nationals, Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke Ralph and Christian Michel James.
"Red Corner Notices were issued in December 2015 and January 2016 through Interpol under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Prevention of Corruption Act. Extradition request has also been made for Christian Michel James. One of the agencies (Enforcement Directorate) has arrested an Indian national and attached approximately Rs.11 crore of property belonging to Indian nationals and to Christian Michel James," the statement added.