The Central Bureau of Investigation is to inquire into charges of unethical dealings by Italian company Finmeccanica in the sale of 12 helicopters by its Anglo-Italian subsidiary AgustaWestland to the Ministry of Defence. The deal is valued at around Rs 3,500 crore.

The probe announcement came after the Italian media reported that Finmeccanica’s Chief Executive Officer had been arrested for corruption and embezzlement in relation to bribes allegedly given to the Indian government.

International agencies stated that Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi, who had been under investigation for months, had denied any wrongdoing in the deal for the sale of 12 helicopters.

It is alleged that bribes were paid to win the contract, which was signed in February 2010.The helicopters are meant for the use of the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs.

No Clarifications

Agencies reported that the Italian magistrate had also ordered that the head of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, be placed under house arrest.

In a statement, however, Finmeccanica confirmed “that the operating activities and ongoing projects of the Company will continue as usual” despite the precautionary measures taken today towards the Chairman and CEO of Finmeccanica and the CEO of the controlled company AgustaWestland.

The decision to hand over the case to the CBI was taken after the Ministry of Defence through the Ministry of External Affairs, sought information from the Governments of Italy and UK.

“No specific inputs were, however, received substantiating the allegations” the Government statement said.

A Defence Ministry statement adds that the probe has been widened to include the Indian contract that AgustaWestland (UK) signed.

The contract signed with AgustaWestland includes specific contractual provisions against bribery and the use of undue influence as well as an Integrity Pact, the Government statement adds.

Defence Minister A. K. Antony had earlier said that deliveries of the choppers are scheduled between January and July this year.

Explain to People: BJP

Unsatisfied over the Centre’s decision to hold a CBI probe into the VVIP helicopter deal, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said the Government owes the people an explanation for delaying the decision to hold a probe.

Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said he had written to Antony two months ago that financial irregularities involved in the deal must be probed by the CBI.

“Action has been taken in Italy on the VVIP helicopter scam. The CEO of the company has been arrested. But no action has been taken here. The country that would have benefited from the deal has taken action while the country which lost money has not done anything,” Javadekar told reporters here on Tuesday.

The BJP plans to bring the matter before Parliament during the forthcoming Budget session.

Ashwini.phadnis@thehindu.co.in

Jigeesham@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 12, 2013)
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