New Delhi, May 12: Civil activists’ group Swaraj Abhiyan revealed another version of AgustaWestland scam, which occurred during the erstwhile reign of Raman Singh as Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. The then state government led by him in 2007, purchased A-109 power helicopter from the infamous Italian defence manufacturing firm AgustaWestland. Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan accused Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh of acting as a service agent for AgustaWestland, and receiving kickbacks through his offshore entities in British Virgin Islands after the deal was completed.
Bhushan claimed that the state government in 2006 issued a tender to buy A-109 power helicopter. It decided to buy the product from AgustaWestland at $5.5 million. The Italian firm adviced the Chhattisgarh government to procure the helicopters from its Hong Kong-based subsidiary Sharp Ocean. However, the deal was struck at an inflated rate of $6.1 million. The same helicopter was purchased by Jharkhand government at $5.5 millions in 2006. Under fire from Opposition, the state government had then struck off the deal, only to re-purchase the product from the same firm at a re-inflated price of $6.5 million.
According to Bhushan, in the aftermath of the deal, $1.5 million was paid as kickback. The recipients of kickback is Abhishek Singh, the son of Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh. Investigating the Panama paper links, Bhushan claims to have found documents which purportedly shows Shark Oceans paying the commission amount to Abhishek Singh’s offshore entity Quest Heights Limited, located in British Virgin Islands. “His name is registered as ‘Abhishak’ Singh. That is probably a clerical mistake. But we have verified the address. It is the same address where Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Rama Singh resides. Abhishek Singh is a major shareholder in that offshore firm. Both the firms have used UCB Bank for the transaction,” Bhushan added.
Highlights from Prashant Bhushan’s explosive press conference:
1. Chhattisgarh state government in 2006, issued tender to buy helicopter chopper. The government decided to procure A-109 Power Helicopter from AgustaWestland.
2. AgustaWestland claimed that it would take another 2 years to supply the product and advised the state government to procure A-109 Power Helicopter from its Hong kong based subsidiary, Sharp Oceans.
3. Sharp Oceans decided sell the helicopter chopper at $6.1 billion dollars. The state government cancelled the deal, citing an inflated price being charged by Sharp Oceans. The same model, A-109 Power Helicopter was purchased by Jharkhand state government in 2005 at $5.5 millions.
4. After cancelling the deal, the state government issued a global tender to once again procure the defence equipment. However, the deal was once again awarded to AgustaWestland, with the same condition that the chopper would be availed from its subsidiary unit Shark Oceans.
5. But this time, the price was even more inflated and pegged at $6.5 million. The state government inked the deal in 2007.
6. Bhushan linked the deal with Panama Paper leaks to prove his allegation of kickback. According to the documents which Bhushan cited, Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh received a commission of up to $1.5 million after the deal was completed.
7. Abhishek Singh is a major shareholder of an offshore firm Quest Heights Limited, which received a payment of $1.5 million from Shark Oceans after the A-109 helicopters were purchased. Both the companies transacted through UCB bank, Bhushan said.
8. Although, Abhishek Singh’s name is registered as ‘Abhishak’ Singh, the address used by him in the registration of the firm is the same Indian address where he resides along with his father and Chhatisgarh CM Raman Singh.
9. “Would BJP government act against this blatant case of corruption? Prime Minister Narendra Modi says na khauga, na khaane duga. Then, he should prove himself true by acting on his own party’s corrupt leaders. Would they take action only if the name ‘Signora Gandhi’ props up?” questioned Swaraj Abhiyan co-founder Yogendra Yadav.