New Delhi, Apr.29: The undisputed central issue in the Agusta Westland choppers deal is corruption, especially bribery, and any other line of approach and effort is misleading, said the Centre on Friday.
“In the matter pertaining to acquisition of Agusta Westland helicopters, the undisputed central issue that stands out is corruption, especially bribery. Any other line of assumption, approach and effort, as is being attempted in some quarters, is misleading, tries to hide the wrong-doers and is driven by instincts of self preservation,” the government said in clarification issued here on the Agusta Westland choppers scam.
“Ever since the new government was given the responsibility to serve the people, it has acted with speed, drive and purpose to empower the country’s masses. It continues to relentlessly pursue fearless and transparent governance. One of the core goals of our governance has been to unearth and uproot corruption, and punish the corrupt,” the statement added.(ALSO READ:AugustaWestland: Sonia Gandhi terms allegations ‘baseless’ in chopper scam, says I’m not afraid).
The statement further said that it is indeed tragic that a small section of the Indian polity has attempted, unsuccessfully, to divert and diffuse the public discourse on this matter.
“They question the speed of the government processes, especially the investigation. But, they do not ask how the corrupt influenced the process of acquisition in the first place and bled the nation. They do not admit corruption; they instead boldly proclaim, ‘catch us if you can’,” the government said.
“The present government has taken effective action to bring out the truth and will leave no stone unturned in pursuing all means to bring to justice the corrupt and the wrong-doers in this case. The investigative agencies remain determined to bring to justice the key perpetrators of this misdeed, both inside and outside the country,” the statement added.
The Centre also stated that it has acted proactively and with alacrity against Agusta Westland International and Finmeccanica.
“It is the present government which through its order dated July 3, 2014, put on hold all procurement/acquisition cases in the pipeline of six companies figuring in the FIR registered by the CBI, namely: M/S Agusta Westland International Ltd., UK, M/S Finmeccanica, Italy, and its group companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, M/S IDS, Tunisia, M/S Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, M/S IDS Infotech Ltd, Mohali and M/S Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt Ltd, Chandigarh,” the statement said.
“The factually misinformed have also made a mention regarding clearance of a joint venture involving Agusta Westland by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. This proposal was approved on September 2, 2011 based on an application by Indian Rotorcraft Ltd a joint venture of Tata Sons with Agusta Westland NV, Netherlands. This was later changed to Agusta Westland S.p.A Italy due to reorganization within the group. On February 7,2012, an industrial licence for the manufacture of helicopters was granted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to Indian Rotorcraft Ltd. However, the validity of licence has since expired,” the statement added.
The NDA Government also said that in their drive to divert the public attention from their own corruption, some have said that the Modi government permitted Augusta Westland to bid for 100 Naval Utility Helicopters in April, 2015.
“The fact is that a techno-commercial Request for Proposal (RFP) for Naval Utility Helicopters was issued to eight vendors on August4, 2012. In response to the RFP, M/S Eurocopters, France and M/S Agusta Westland S.p.A Italy submitted their techno-commercial proposals on 4 March 2013. RFP of the procurement case was retracted by the Government on October 13, 2014,” the statement said.
“The Indian Navy has hosted on the website a Request for Information for more than 100 Naval Utility Helicopter in October 2014. No Request for Proposal has been issued, therefore the question of permitting Agusta Westland to bid for the Naval Utility Helicopter in April 2015 does not arise. The government is exploring whether their manufacturing can be pursued under ‘Make in India’,” the statement added.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Government said that on the core issue of corruption, the timeline of actions taken by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate clearly shows due rigour and diligence with which these agencies have pursued all aspects of their investigations, including the arrest and extradition of three foreign nationals namely Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke Ralph and Christian Michel James.
“CBI has so far investigated over 100 witnesses. In September and November 2014, couple of accused have been arrested and their property attached. A criminal complaint was also filed. Letter of Requests were sent out by ED and CBI to Mauritius (July 2013), Tunisia and Italy (December 2013), British Virgin Islands, Singapore and U.K. (September 2014), UAE and Switzerland (December 2014). The agencies are continuing to pursue responses to the LRs from the countries concerned,” the statement said.
“Further, an open ended non-bailable arrest warrant was issued by CBI against Christian James Michel on 24 September 2015. Red Corner notices were issued in December 2015 and January 2016 through Interpol under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Prevention of CorruptionAct on charges of conspiracy and abuse of official position in giving favours to M/s AWIL,” the statement added.
“Extradition request has also been made for Christian Michel James. A request for provision arrest for the purpose of extradition was made to the U.K. authorities on 4 January 2016 by CBI. Enforcement Directorate, another autonomous agency to handle private money laundering and Foreign Exchange irregularities, has also separately sent a Red Corner seeking arrest and a request for his extradition from the U.K. on 29 February 2016,” it further said.
“A few have even sought to link one of the accused with Ajit Doval, present NSA, as also Nripendra Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, which is a totally baseless assertion, devoid of reason and logic, and indicative of malicious intent. In reality, there is no such connection,” the Centre said.
The Government said the investigative agencies will stay their course in unveiling the corrupt and holding them accountable to our public.
AgustaWestland’s Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force was scrapped by the UPA government over charges of paying kickbacks to Indian agents.
In January 2013, India cancelled the deal and the CBI was assigned to investigate the matter.