Team of CBI, govt officials to leave for Italy today

A CBI team is expected to leave for Italy on Monday to probe the allegations of kickbacks in the Rs 3,600-crore deal for the 12 AgustaWestland 101 choppers, officials said.

Official sources said the team, comprising a senior investigating officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and a law officer, would meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain the details of the case.

In with the new: The Indian Air Force had sought AgustaWestland choppers as a replacement for its ageing MI-17 cargo helicopters. Three of the 12 helicopters have already been supplied. Representation Pic

“The team will leave as soon as possible. Hopefully by Monday (today),” an official said. The defence ministry is also sending a senior joint secretary to Italy “to gather as much evidence as possible” relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of the helicopters for VVIP use by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The official, AK Bal, will leave for Rome today. Sources said that the defence ministry official and the CBI team were likely to travel together to Italy. They said the CBI team will probe if firms had been floated to route kickbacks in the helicopter deal with AgustaWestland, a Britain-based subsidiary of Italian firm Finmeccanica.

The government has already put on hold the deal and launched the process to cancel it amid allegations that kickbacks Rs 217 crore were paid to clinch the deal.
It has also issued a show cause notice to AgustaWestland as to why the contract should not be scrapped in view of the corruption allegations.

An Italian court, hearing the case, has rejected India’s request for documents related to the investigations into the matter, maintaining that the “information is covered by secrecy”.

AgustaWestland has said it was preparing to clarify the points raised by the Indian government. The helicopters were for the IAF’s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the president, the prime minister and other VVIPs.

The IAF had sought the choppers as a replacement for its ageing MI-17 cargo helicopters that were modified for VVIP use. Three of the 12 AgustaWestland helicopters have already been supplied.

Italian agencies on Tuesday arrested Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for alleged corruption to seal the deal.

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