AgustaWestland (AW) which is facing bribery charges in the sale of 12 VVIP AW101 helicopters to the Indian Air Force has contested a report of India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) “in the interest of accuracy of balance”.
In a communication to the CAG last week, AW has said that it would have been able to demonstrate flight operations at a height of 6,000 meters rather than 4,500 meters as was mandated in the 2006 RFP.
One of the main charges against AW is that the services ceiling had been lowered to facilitate entry of AW into the competition, with the help of agents who paid bribes to Indian officials.
The communication said had the services ceiling requirement remained at 6000 meters for the 2006 RFP, the AW101 would have been able to demonstrate compliance with that requirement during the 2008 Flight Evaluation Test. This means that the reduction of this requirement to 4,500 metres was not required to allow AW101 to compete.
AW also claimed that it had written on June 29, 2005 to Air HQ confirming that the AW101 could be modified to meet a 6,000 meters service ceiling requirement in any future RFP if needed.
It further said that flight evaluation trials were carried out on “actual” AW101 aircraft. Merlin is the name used for AW101 by the British armed forces. The AW101 is not an aircraft still in development.
The CAG report had said that the field evaluation trials for the Agusta chopper was done on representative model, Merlin as the AW-101 model was still in the development phase.
The communication said that the cabin height services quality requirement of 1.8 metres did not lead to the ejection of any of the competing aircraft. All aircraft met or exceeded this requirement. This meant there was no single vendor situation after the 2006 RFP.
However, the communication remained silent on the CAG report’s contention that the benchmark cost of $731 million for the 12 VVIP choppers was "unreasonably high" as compared to the $590 million quoted by AgustaWestland.
In another interesting development, Indian defence minister A. K. Antony told parliament last week, “after issuance of RFP for the procurement of 12 VVIP/VIP helicopters, certain changes, with the approval of the competent authority in terms of Defence Procurement Procedure-2006, have been made in technical requirements on the basis of the recommendation of the stakeholders to meet the requisite standards of operational safety and security”.
The international media has expressed surprise at this statement. Defense-Aerospace.com said, “this is a very surprising statement.By saying that changes made to the helicopter RFP after it was issued were recommended by “stakeholders,” and that they also were approved by the “competent authority,” Antony clearly undermines the credibility of on-going investigations by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation and by Italian magistrates”.
These investigations have focused on persistent but as yet unproven allegations that changes to the RFP requirements were made surreptitiously and illegally to favour AgustaWestland’s AW101, in exchange for bribes paid to Indian officials, it said.
The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not arresting former IAF chief SP Tyagi and his cousins may help the defense argument in the trial against previous Finmeccanica executives Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini in an Italian court. The CBI has been investigating the alleged payment of bribe in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter purchase case
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AgustaWestland, which is accused of paying bribes to secure a contract to sell 12 VVIP helicopters to the Indian Air Force,has put three helicopters in the hanger as the Indian government has not responded to its request for negotiations on further deliveries under the contract.After news of the bribery became known, the Indian MoD ordered a criminal investigation and pur the contract on hold, meaning suspending both payments and accepting further deliveries
Facing the threat of cancellation of its Rs 3,600 crore deal for VVIP choppers, AgustaWestland has asked the Indian Government to release its payments, claiming the breach of contract. In a letter written to the ministries of Defence, Finance and External Affairs, the Anglo-Italian firm has said that there were certain 'contractual difficulties' with the Defence Ministry and asked for its payments to be released
With the suspension of the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal the status of the Indian Air Forces VVIP chopper procurement has left contenders vying to fulfill Indias requirement. Some reports say that the Indian Air Force now plans to use Russian Mi-17 helicopters that, ironically were dropped from competition in 2006, to ferry VVIPs
As the possibility of blacklisting by the Indian government looms over AgustaWestland following the termination of the VVIP helicopter deal, its participation in various other military tenders worth an estimated $3.5 billion also hang in the balance
Referring to press reports related to the possible cancellation of the contract for the supply of 12 VVIP AW101 helicopters to India, Finmeccanica confirms that its subsidiary company, AgustaWestland, has received no such communication from Indias MOD. Finmeccanica is confident in India's reputation for fair and transparent proceedings and respect for the rule of law, for which India has an established reputation
AgustaWestland took home contracts worth over €1.44 billion in the last few months, the company said in a statement
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