While scotching rumours that he’ll offer to resign over the corruption charges, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday admitted “something wrong had happened somewhere” in the Rs 3,546-crore chopper deal with AgustaWestland.
“I will do my duty. I am now getting ready for the Parliament session. We will explain everything to Parliament. We have nothing to hide. Our hands are very clean,” Antony said. “One thing is clear...something happened somewhere,” he told reporters.
Italian investigations into the affairs of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica had in early 2012 revealed the possibility of payoffs in the 2010 contract for 12 VVIP helicopters.
But the Ministry of Defence only took perfunctory measures such as seeking information on the investigations from the Italian government, apart from sending a similar request to the United Kingdom.
“There was a report that the chief executive of the company had been arrested. So we thought it is better the CBI investigate the case and we entrusted it with the inquiry,” Antony said. “Unless I get some concrete evidence...we are tyring to get the truth..at the moment there are only media reports,” he said.
He also dismissed reports of differences within the government over scrapping the deal. “We want to find out the culprits, whoever it is, and bring them before the law at the earliest. That is the resolve of the entire government. There is no difference,” he said.
Rejecting the BJP’s criticism, the Defence Minister said, “I cannot wake up anybody who is sleeping. If they are awake, they will know that from day one, when the media broke the news, we are acting.”
Antony appealed to the media not to “cloud” every defence procurement, when asked about suggestions that the `1 lakh-crore Rafale deal should be reviewed in view of allegations of the French firm Dassault Aviation engaging middlemen during the tendering process.
Antony also refused to pin the blame for corruption on anyone in particular. “The Italian court is inquiring. That court is beyond the Indian Government. Nobody from India can influence that court. Now, let them also complete their inquiry. Let them also give us the facts. Now the CBI is also gathering facts and let them file their preliminary report,” he said.
He said the corruption took place despite bblacklisting six defence companies named in a corruption case last year.
“I thought blacklisting will be a reminder and a warning also. We cancelled many contracts and for that I was accused of slowing down modernisation. Even at the cost of receiving this kind of brickbats, we took strong action in cases where we found something is wrong,” he added.
“There is no end to human greed. Still greedy people are working around the world,” he observed.