AgustaWestland chopper scam: Here's what the fuss is all about

The AgustaWestland deal, also being referred to as the VVIP Chopper scam, has been rocking Parliament for the last few days. What’s exactly is the scam all about? We tell you.

The deal
In February 2010, India signed a contract worth Rs 3,546 crore with AgustaWestland to supply 12 AW-101 helicopters to the Indian Air Force. These aircrafts were procured to fly VVIPs like the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice President and others.

Why where they purchased?
The AW-101s were supposed to replace Soviet Mi-8 helicopters, which were being used to transport the VVIPs, as they had completed their technical life.

What went wrong?
In February 2013, allegations of corruption and kickbacks to the tune of Rs.360 crore started doing the rounds, following the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Finmeccanica, by Italian authorities. Finmeccanica is AgustaWestland's parent company.

Termination of contract
On January 1, 2014, India terminated the Rs 3,600 crore-deal on allegations of payment of kickbacks and involvement of middlemen in the acquisition process by the Anglo-Italian firm. AgustaWestland had already supplied three choppers to India and the delivery of the remaining nine was put on hold after then Defence Minister AK Antony ordered a CBI probe. According to Antony. “The then UPA government instituted proceedings for encashment of securities/bank guarantees. This litigation finally succeeded in June 2014 and the Indian government recovered an amount of Rs.2,068 crore against payment of Rs.1,620 crore.”

Finmeccanica former CEO jailed
Earlier this month, former chief executive officer of Italian group Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, and former head of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, were sentenced to jail for false accounting and corruption in connection with the chopper scam.

How Sonia Gandhi’s name cropped up
The BJP has alleged that Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s name crops up four times in an Italian court judgment that observes bribes were indeed paid to Indian authorities to secure the AgustaWestland deal. The 225-page judgment on page 193 mentions Sonia Gandhi's name, apart from other places," claimed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman Sambit Patra.

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