No Formal Inquiry Into VVIP Helicopter Bribery Allegations, Says Indian Defense Minister

  • 12:00 AM, November 30, 2012
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The Indian Government has not ordered any inquiry into the allegations of bribery concerning the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters in the absence of specific information. Augusta Westland was awarded the contract valued at 556 million Euros with deliveries expected to begin in 2013. In a written reply to the Parliament, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said his Ministry was pursuing the matter and was committed to taking suitable penalty measures if the allegations were substantiated. “However, in the absence of any specific information in this regard, government has not ordered any formal inquiry into the case so far”. On the MoD’s request, the Indian Embassy took up the matter with Italy which “intimated us that they have no official position on the issue in view of independence of judiciary and Italian prosecutors being neither under the executive nor accountable to it,” the Minister said. Antony added that Finmeccanica’s internal audit was found to be “inconclusive and does not bring out any concrete fact to draw a conclusion". Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been asked to follow up the investigation with the Italians and seek information on whether any middleman or Indian individual was involved in the contract. “The Italian Ambassador in India was also summoned by the MEA and a copy of the aide memoire has also been handed over to him,” Antony said. “As per the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) an integrity pact needs to be signed between the buyers and the bidders for all procurement schemes over Rs 100 crore. Provisions were in place to check the role of middlemen and ensure the highest degree of probity, public accountability and transparency in defence acquisition cases”. The Indian Air Force, which is receive the helicopters in a couple of months time, had already clarified that the selection process was "transparent and followed all procedures".
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