Chopper scam: Two-member CBI team to leave for Italy today

New Delhi: Moving swiftly, the government Saturday named a two-member CBI team and a senior defence ministry official who are to leave for Italy soon to probe the allegations of kickbacks in the VVIP chopper deal.

According to IBN Live, the team is set to leave for Italy on Sunday, 17 February. Their departure has been delayed by one day due to some formalities that had to be completed before they left.

Representative image. AFP.

Representative image. AFP.

The government has put on hold the $750 million/Rs.3,600 crore deal for the 12 AgustaWestland 101 choppers and launched the process to cancel the deal with Italian firm Finmeccanica. The government has also issued a show cause notice to Britain-based AgustWestland asking why the contract should not be scrapped in view of the corruption allegations.

Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview to CNN IBN, Sanjeev Tyagi, who has been implicated in the case, said: "I have no links with AgustaWestland. I am not aware of any deal. I did not receive any payment. (Guido Ralph) Haschke is lying. Finmeccanica is trying to cover up its own bungling. The charges are baseless. It is very easy to tarnish someone's reputation, but can the media pay it back?" he said.

The defence ministry said on Saturday it was sending Joint Secretary A.K. Bal to Italy to gather details on deal, while the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said it was sending a legal officer and another senior official to Rome to probe allegations of 51 million euro (approx $68 mn) kickbacks being paid by Finmeccanica to clinch the deal.

In a statement, the ministry said it was "deputing a senior joint secretary to Italy to gather as much evidence as possible relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 12 AW101 VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force".

Bal would be leaving for Rome by Monday.

"The (CBI) team will have a senior Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer and a law officer. They are likely to go to Italy within a week," an agency official told IANS.

The CBI had received some documents pertaining to the case from the defence ministry Friday but was yet to register preliminary enquiry because it had to confirm the allegations of graft against Indian nationals and alleged kickbacks paid by the Italian firm, said CBI sources.

The CBI team had asked defence ministry officials to provide its files related to any sort of internal enquiry undertaken by it in connection with alleged corruption in the February 2010 deal to acquire 12 AW-101 helicopters from Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland.

The helicopters were for IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the president, the prime minister and other VVIPs, they said.

Italian agencies Tuesday arrested Finmeccanica chief executive officer (CEO) Giuseppe Orsi for alleged corruption to seal the deal.

The Indian Air Force had sought the choppers as a replacement for its Mi-17 cargo helicopters that were modified for VVIP deployment. Three of the 12 helicopters have already been supplied.

An Italian court, hearing the case, has rejected India's request for documents related to the investigations into the matter, maintaining that the "information is covered by secrecy".

AgustaWestland has said it was preparing to clarify the points raised by the Indian government.

"AgustaWestland clarifies that Indian authorities have not cancelled the contract but have requested some clarifications within seven days. AgustaWestland is preparing its answer to timely meet the Indian authorities' request," the firm said in a release.

IANS with inputs from IBN Live

Updated Date: Feb 17, 2013 08:25 AM

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