Wednesday, January 01, 2014

India cancels huge chopper deal with AgustaWestland

Pic: Anadolu Agency
NEW DELHI (AA) - India on Wednesday scrapped a huge £480-million deal with Anglo-Italian helicopter company AgustaWestland over allegations of kickbacks, sources in India’s Defense Ministry said.
According to Press Trust of India, the cancellation came after a meeting between Defense Minister A. K. Antony with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier on Wednesday.
India froze the controversial chopper deal in February 2013 when allegations of kickbacks surfaced in Italy that two top officials of the company had allegedly paid nearly £25.4 million in bribes to bag the contract in company’s favour.
The Indian government was forced to investigate the deal when the reports appeared that kickbacks were allegedly earmarked to Indian politicians, bureaucrats and Indian Air Force officials.    
In February 2010, AgustaWestland, the UK-based subsidiary of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica, had inked a deal to supply 12 of the company's AW-101 VVIP model helicopters to IAF.
Wednesday’s cancellation of the deal is likely to be marred by legal complexities as the helicopter company has already delivered 3 choppers to India and a part of the payment had been made.
India’s Defense Ministry had issued a show-cause notice to AgustaWestland in October 2013 asking why the contract should not be cancelled as it was a "clear violation" of pre-contract integrity pact. 
The helicopter company had told the Defense Ministry that it was not involved in any wrongdoing in securing the defense deal.
The scrapping of the deal comes just days before Indian officials were to question Guido Ralph Haschke on January 6, one of the alleged middlemen in the deal, who had purportedly made veiled references of bribes to be paid to Indian politicians, diplomats and IAF officials in a handwritten draft two years before the contract was actually signed. Haschke is being prosecuted in an Italian court.
CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), India’s top investigation agency, is conducting a parallel probe into the alleged bribery case and has charged former IAF chief S. P. Tyagi and 14 others in March 2013.

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