Act swiftly on Agusta deal, says IAF chief
By NC Bipindra | Published: 05th October 2013 07:44 AM |
Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne on Friday said that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) needed to take a quick decision on the AgustaWestland contract, as the existing VVIP helicopter fleet of Russian-origin Mi-8 choppers would be phased out next year.
“There is a CBI case (in the chopper scam) going on here and Italian investigations are happening in Milan. We have informed the government that the Mi-8 choppers, which we were using now, are going to be phased out from next year.
So, some decision has to be taken soon on how to move forward. That particular contract remains frozen,” the IAF chief said.
India had suspended the 2010 contract in February this year after then Finmeccanica CEA Giuseppe Orsi was arrested in Italy over a court investigations over bribery charges, which also included the Indian VVIP choppers deal.
The Defence Ministry had also stopped payments and the deliveries of the remaining nine of the 12 helicopters, apart from handing over investigation into the corruption charges in the deal to CBI, which has named former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S P Tyagi and his three cousins as beneficiaries of the deal’s kickbacks.
In the middle of August, August, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the VVIP helicopters had slammed the MoD, the Special Protection Group that guards the Prime Minister and the IAF for the “deviations” in the procurement procedures.
“Following the suspension of the contract to supply AW101 VVIP helicopters to India - a sanction not provided for the under contract - a request was made to India’s Ministry of Defence by AgustaWestland in April 2013 invoking the contractual provision for bilateral discussions.
Since then there have been a series of further requests for discussions. Regrettably, to date, there has been no response from India’s MoD,” a statement from AgustaWestland here said.
Top sources in the company indicated to ‘Express’ that they were left with “no choice” but to go in for arbitration that is provided for in the 2010 contract, after the MoD remained silent for too longer than what was provided for under the contract after the company sought “bilateral” discussions in the matter.
“While the arbitration proceedings themselves are confidential, the issues in question relate to the unilateral suspension of the contract. Neither the contract nor the associated Integrity Pact confers such rights on the Indian MoD,” the company said, categorically.