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UPA govt puts Italian chopper deal on hold

India has put the delivery of three helicopters from AgustaWestland scheduled for next month on hold, along with the remaining six which were to arrive later. India has received three of the 12 helicopters for which the deal was struck in 2010 for Rs 3,600 crore.

Around 30 per cent of the amount has been paid but the payment of about Rs 2,400 crore is expected to be put on hold till the outcome of the CBI probe, defence ministry sources said in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Budget session of parliament is all set to witness a wordy duel between the ruling UPA government and the Opposition BJP. The BJP has launched a scathing attack on the Congress-led government terming the deal as the ‘second Bofors scam.’

The BJP attacked Congress President Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh and raked up the Italian origin of the company. Leading the government’s rebuttal, defense minister A K Antony said, ‘Nobody will be spared whatever may be the consequences.’

He said CBI has been asked to give an early report on its probe. ‘Once we get the preliminary inquiry report from CBI, strongest action will be taken against those found guilty,’ he said.

Asked whether the money paid to the Italian firm so far can be claimed back by the government, Antony said, ‘If the Indian government paid any amount, as per the integrity pact, we can get back the entire money.’ He mentioned that the Defence Procurement Procedure governing defence deals takes care of integrity pact by foreign vendors.

 ‘The moment we received the complaint, we did not hesitate. We blacklisted six companies. Out of that. four are most powerful international companies,’ he said.

Even though CBI didn’t confirm whether they have registered a preliminary enquiry or a case,  sources said one of the two is in process and is likely to be filed by Wednesday night or Thursday.

The agency, on Wednesday morning, had received a complaint from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe in the alleged kickback given in the procurement of 12 helicopters produced by Finmeccanica’s subsidiary AgustaWestland.


TYAGI ADMITS TO MEETING MIDDLEMAN


Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, whose name has surfaced in the VVIP helicopter scam, on Wednesday, admitted having met one of the alleged middlemen but claimed innocence. 'I have met Carlo in my cousins' place but when you say you have contact with him, then the answer is no. What connection could I have with him? I want to tell you that the whole process started after I retired... the entire process of evaluation, trials, contracts took place in 2010,' Tyagi said.  The former IAF chief refuted allegations that he was paid bribes to swing a Rs 3,600 crore deal for procuring 12 choppers from Italian firm Finmeccanica to ferry VVIPS.
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