VVIP Chopper scam: Cameron bats for AgustaWestland, blames Italy's Finmeccanica

Britain Prime Minister David Cameron backed the UK helicopter firm AgustaWestland on Monday despite it being implicated in a bribery probe in India.

On his visit to India, Cameron told BBC News that Westland is an 'excellent company'. He, however, said the issue of whether bribes were paid to win a contract was a matter for India and the Italian company Finmeccanica.

"Finmeccanica is an Italian company. This is essentially an issue between the Indian authorities and Italy," Cameron said.

In an interview to NDTV, the Prime Minister said that their main concern is to make the best choppers. "No one has asked us to investigate. But we will look into it seriously, if we are asked to," he said.

David Cameron. AP

David Cameron. AP

He further added, that UK's fraud office will decide whether to look into claims of bribery.

Cameron arrived in India on Monday to try win new investment in the face of fierce global competition as a scandal engulfs an Anglo-Italian helicopter deal.

Making his second visit to India as Prime Minister, Cameron's trip comes days after a similar trade mission by French President Francois Hollande, underlining how Europe's debt-stricken states are competing to tap into one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

However, the timing of Cameron's trip is not ideal. India said on Friday it wanted to cancel a $750 million deal for a dozen helicopters made by AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian subsidiary of Italy's Finmeccanica, over bribery claims.

That will not make Cameron's job of persuading India to buy more civil and military hardware easier, and Indian officials have told the local press they intend to press Cameron for "a fully fledged report" on what Britain knows about the scandal.

Britain has said it wants to wait until the end of the Italian investigation before commenting in full, but has given India an interim report on the subject.

At a time when Britain's government is struggling to get its economy growing, officials see India, projected to become the world's third largest economy by 2050, as a key strategic partner in what Cameron has called a "Global Race".

"I think Britain and India can be one of the great partnerships of the 21st Century," he told an Indian daily. "India is going to be one of the great success stories of this century - a rising power in the world. And I want Britain to be one of your partners as you grow and succeed."

He is expected to remind the Indian government that the Eurofighter jet - which is partly built in Britain - remains an attractive option if New Delhi decides to review a multi-billion dollar deal to buy 126 French-made Rafale fighters.

With inputs from Reuters

Updated Date: Feb 19, 2013 08:53 AM

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