With India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) yet to prove the existence of any money trail in the VVIP helicopter bribery scandal and AgustaWestland not blacklisted yet, the possibility of the Anglo-Italian manufacturer making a comeback in India looks likely.
A year after the CBI began its investigation the agency has not been able to establish a money trial and is no longer expected to file charges, according to reports.
The news comes only a week after the country’s Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran advised against any immediate steps to blacklist AgustaWestland. "The Law officer has asked us to wait before going ahead with the blacklisting of the Anglo-Italian firm. We have now referred the issue to CBI, which is carrying out legal proceedings against the firm in India," A Defence Ministry source was quoted as saying by an Indian news agency.
The MoD, last March, cancelled the $770 million deal to acquire 12 helicopters for VVIP use after the CBI lodged a first information report, following a preliminary enquiry and claims of Italian prosecutors that the company paid kickbacks to clinch the deal.
However, the CBI seems to have run into roadblocks while gathering information concerning the money trial. "Our requests for information sent to Italy, Tunisia and Mauritius remain unanswered. Some of these countries are expected to cite their banking laws to deny any information. The alleged kickbacks to Indian officials came through a multi-layered and circuitous route which is proving difficult to crack in the absence of cooperation from abroad," an unnamed CBI official was quoted as saying in the Indian media.
Meanwhile, AgustaWestland has maintained it did not offer kickbacks to Indian officials to help win the contract and has opted for arbitration.
India, earlier this year, agreed to AgustaWestland's calls for arbitration and will use this process as part of its push to get back the amount it has already paid, defence ministry officials were quoted as saying by Reuters. The three-person arbitration tribunal will consist of one person chosen by each side and one mutually-agreed neutral member.