Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharam on Thursday rejected reports of alleged kickbacks to the tune of Rs 17.55 crore for the procurement of spares of AN-32 military aircraft by India.
In a tweet, Sitharaman said that a misleading news item has appeared in a newspaper alleging kickbacks to Government of India officials through Global Marketing SP Ltd in contract for spares for AN-32 Aircraft.
“Ministry of Defence or Indian Air Force has not signed any agreement with the above mentioned firm,” she added.
In a press release, Ministry of Defence also said that neither MoD or IAF interacted nor signed any agreement with Global Marketing SP Ltd., nor were any such agreements witnessed.
“IAF has also confirmed that Global Marketing SP Ltd. has not participated in any of the meetings held towards finalization of the contract dated 26.11.2014 with STE Ukraine,” it added.
The MoD press release further said that the Embassy of Ukraine in India had sent a request to MHA and MEA, Govt. of India dated 06.03.2018 for legal assistance in investigation of a criminal case filed against officials of Ukraine Government’s State Owned Enterprise (STE).
'A misleading news item has appeared in @IndianExpress alleging kickbacks to GoI officials through Global Marketing SP Ltd in contract for spares for AN-32 Aircraft. MoD or @IAF_MCC has not signed any agreement w/ above mentioned firm'— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) May 31, 2018
Full Press Release-https://t.co/eYNnaNeTH0
“This request contains a list of questions to be answered. There are no allegations against any Indian Govt. official. Government of India has only been requested to render legal assistance,” the press release clarified.
Earlier in the day, referring to a media report in this regard, the Congress asked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to respond to the “serious” allegation of kickbacks in the procurement of spares of AN-32 military aircraft.
At a press conference, Congress leader Manish Tewari, citing the media report, also demanded that the government should come out with details of the contract and not sweep it under the carpet “as was the case” in the Rafale deal.
The media report said Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau has sent a request to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking legal assistance in its probe into the alleged kickbacks, besides help in identifying defence ministry officials who participated in the negotiations, signing and implementation of the deal.
“There seems to be trouble in paradise, the Ministry of Defence,” Tewari said, adding that the contract for the AN-32 spares was signed in November 2014 during the tenure of the BJP-led NDA government.
Tewari raised five questions over the defence deal and sought the reply of the government saying he hoped that it would “not sweep the matter under the carpet”.
He asked whether it is a fact that the anti-corruption bureau of Ukraine sought legal assistance from the home ministry in February this year.
The Congress leader said the government “misused” the confidentiality clause and hid behind it following allegations of wrongdoing in the Rafale deal.
Tewari sought to know whether it is a fact that the terms of contract were not fulfilled and the ministry of defence signed a statement of completion which facilitated the transfer of the alleged illegal gratification.
“This is actually the nub of the entire issue and the government must respond. What has been the response so far of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence to the request of the Ukrainian government?” he said.
All the details such as whether any internal process has been initiated by the Ministry of Defence in the wake of the alleged scam should be made public, he said.
“If this government believes in transparency and probity and if it abides by the slogan of ‘na khata hun, na khane deta hun’ ((we don’t take bribes nor let others to do so), then why have you been hiding these facts from the people. The moment the request came from the Ukrainian government it should have been put out in the public space,” he said.
The former Union minister said, “This is an extremely serious issue and we would like the BJP government’s response from the highest levels.
“Since the honourable defence ministry holds fort on all and sundry 24/7, we do hope she would take the time out to respond to something which pertains to her ministry,” he said.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September last year for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
The Congress recently raised several questions about the contract and accused the government of compromising national interest and security while promoting “crony capitalism” and causing a loss to the public exchequer.
The government had refused to divulge the details of the deal, citing a confidentiality pact between India and France.
(With PTI inputs)