Parrikar questions Congress' defence on AgustaWestland, will raise issue in Parliament

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday challenged the Congress to show the UPA government order blacklisting the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland in connection with the VVIP chopper scam.

Parrikar, who said that he will speak in detail in Parliament on the issue in the near future, informed that the Ministry has received a copy of the Italian court order and is in the process of translating it into English. He said that the process might take 8-10 days.

Parrikar also took a dig at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying translation from Italian was not easy, "at least for the ruling side. May not be a difficult task for the opposition."

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A combative Parrikar hit back when asked about Congress' allegation that while UPA had blacklisted the company, the NDA government removed it from the blacklist.

"When did they blacklist? Ask them first. Ask them what date the order was issued? Show me the copy of the order," the Minister said.

Asked if he meant that the firm was never blacklisted, he said, "I am not saying that."

Interestingly, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on 5 February 2014, the then Defence Minister AK Antony, while giving details on AgustaWestland, had said, "No decision has been taken till date to debar the said company."

This runs contrary to what the Congress has been claiming because the reply came just months ahead of the regime change.

However, records of state-run HAL show that Agusta Westland International Ltd, UK, Finmeccanica, Italy and its group of companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, IDS Tunisia and Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, were blacklisted on 3 July 2014, when NDA was in power, because of the CBI case against them to inquire into alleged criminal wrongdoing in the procurement of VVIP Helicopters.

Hitting back at BJP on the VVIP chopper deal, Congress had yesterday alleged that AgustaWestland was "removed" from the blacklisted category by the Modi dispensation.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma had said, "The chopper deal was scrapped. Action was taken by the UPA government. AK Antony, the then Defence Minister, had made a statement in Parliament and Agusta Westland was blacklisted."

Parrikar was speaking on the sidelines of an IAF event.

Meanwhile, reacting to Sonia Gandhi's rejection of charges related to the case, Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Wednesday said she should ask the Italian court why her name and names of senior party leaders have come out after two years.

"She is from Italy and I am sure she will have some connections back there. The reports have not be presented by the government or a BJP leader but by the media. She should ask the Italian court why her name and names of senior party leaders have come out after two years," Rudy told reporters.

He said that Sonia does not have to be afraid as all the facts are in the open.

"She is absolutely right. There is no need to be afraid, facts are all there. Let the country know about it. All the facts are in open. There is no possibility to hide anything. It is not the Indian court but the Italian court which has given the facts. Facts are in the open," he said.

He further said, "Notices have been served by BJP MPs Anurag Thakur, Meenakshi Lekhi and Om Birla on it. Once the motion is accepted, the Defence Minister will reply on it in Parliament. All the facts would be there and the govt is going to act."

When pointed out that Gandhi has alleged that BJP is indulging in character assassination, he said, "It is for the Italian court to respond."

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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2016 17:12:02 IST

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