Defence ministry on an Italian job

Feb 17, 2013, 09:14 IST | Agencies

Joint Secretary AK Bal will fly to Rome today to probe the alleged kickbacks that Finmeccanica paid to clinch the $750 million deal for 12 choppers. BJP compares VVIP chopper 'scam' to the Bofors scandal

After Italian agencies arrested Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Italian firm Finmeccanica, the Italian defence group, for alleged corruption to clinch the deal on the 12 AW101 VVIP helicopters deal for the Indian Air Force on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry will send Senior joint secretary AK Bal to gather details on alleged kickbacks.

“The team will have a senior CBI officer and a law officer,” an agency official confirmed.

Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Italian firm Finmeccanica. Pic/ AFP

On Friday, the defence ministry said it was seeking to cancel the order, but in a statement yesterday, AugustaWestland, Finmeccanica’s subsidiary said, “The Ministry of Defence has not cancelled the contract, but has given notice requesting information within seven days. We are preparing its answer to timely meet the Indian authorities’ request.” An Italian court has also rejected India’s request for documents related to the investigations, arguing that the “information is covered by secrecy”.

The Indian Air Force had sought the AgustaWestland choppers as a replacement for its Mi-17 cargo helicopters that were modified for VVIP deployment. Manufactures have already supplied three of the 12 helicopters.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded the matter be probed under the monitoring of the Supreme Court. “This reminds us of the Bofors gun scandal, which also involved an Italian company. The Bofors scam was also related to defence,” said (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi.

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