VVIP chopper bribery: UK PM assures India of assistance in probe

British  Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday assured India of assistance in investigating the bribery allegations in sale of VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland.

New Delhi, Feb 19/Nationalturk- The United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday assured India of assistance in investigating the bribery allegations in sale of VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland, a British company.

“I conveyed to Prime Minister Cameron our very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for supply of 12 Agusta Westland helicopters for use of VVIPs,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters after meeting visiting British Prime Minister in Indian capital today.

The helicopters were for Indian Air Force’s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs.

PM Singh said he has told him (Cameron) that India has sought an explanation from the company (Agusta Westland) by February 22 to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the Integrity Pact have been violated.

He said he has sought full assistance from the UK in this case.

“Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigations,” added Singh.

Indian government has already put on hold the deal and launched the process to cancel it amid allegations that kickbacks of 51 million euro (approx USD 68 mn) were paid to clinch the deal.

AgustaWestland, which manufactures helicopters in Britain, is owned by Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica, whose chief executive was arrested last week over allegations the company paid bribes to win the Indian deal in 2010.

India has already issued show cause notice to AgustaWestland

On February 15, Indian Defence Ministry had issued a formal show cause notice to UK’s AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica seeking cancellation of contract and taking other actions as per the terms of the contract and the Integrity Pact. “The Defence Ministry has already put on hold further payments to the company on Wednesday. With today’s show cause notice, the operation of the contract has been put on hold. The company has been asked to reply to the notice in seven days,” added the notice.

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

Meanwhile, according to media reports, Italian inquiry report has said middleman Ralph Haschke has “confessed” that he met six or seven times with the then Indian Air Force chief  SP Tyagi, who supplied updates on the progress in the tender.  “Haschke once greeted Air Chief Marshal Tyagi by touching his feet as a sign of respect,” the Italian prosecutors claim.

The report says that 100,000 Euros in cash was delivered by Haschke to the Tyagi brothers in their office. The payments were made through Tunisia-registered companies controlled by Haschke and Gerosa and were then transferred to accounts in India and Mauritius,” it said.

The scam is pivoted on the assumption that the requirements for the 12 helicopters were changed to benefit AgustaWestland. In 2003, when the rightwing party BJP-led NDA was in power in India, the flying altitude for the choppers was reduced from 18,000 to 15,000 feet.

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Faiz Ahmad / NationalTurk India News


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