Agusta seeks Finance Ministry, MEA help on VVIP chopper pact
Faced with the prospect of scrapping of the Rs 3,546-crore deal to supply 12 VVIP helicopters, Italian major AgustaWestland has now approached the Finance and External Affairs ministries to act as the arbiters in its troubles with the Defence Ministry in executing the January 2010 contract.
In a series of letters to both ministries, the beleaguered firm, which is under an investigation in Italy over allegations of adopting corrupt practices to bag overseas contracts, has sought time from the top brass of the two ministries to explain its stand in the VVIP helicopter issue.
The letters, signed by AgustaWestland Italy Managing Director Geoff Hoon, follows an April 16 letter that AgustaWestland UK’s Managing Director Raymond Edwards wrote to Director General (Acquisitions) of the Defence Ministry Satish B Agnihotri.
Sources said here that the latest letters were part of the last-ditch efforts by the company to settle the issues arising out of the Defence Ministry’s decision to put on hold deliveries of nine remaining AW-101 helicopters, suspend balance payments worth half the deal amount and slap it with a showcause notice on why the deal should not be scrapped.
Sources said though the Defence Ministry is yet to take a decision on scrapping the deal pending a CBI probe into the VVIP chopper contract, it has also not replied to the April 16 letter.
“This could have prompted AgustaWestland to approach the Finance and External Affairs ministries,” the sources said.
In the April 16 letter, AgustaWestland had expressed “very deep concern” at the continuing uncertainty surrounding the VVIP helicopters contract, considering that the company had served India for 40 years.
Professing the company’s commitment to work with Indian authorities to resolve the difficulties as soon as possible, Edwards said this would allow the Indian armed forces to receive the equipment they needed in the timescale required.
Till December last, AgustaWestland had delivered three of the 12 helicopters. Though three more helicopters are ready for delivery, the Defence Ministry had refused to accept them, following its decision in February this year to issue a showcause notice to the firm.