New Delhi, Apr 25: With a chopper deal involving an Italian company raising more questions over alleged malpractices, the Defence Ministry today ordered a fresh inquiry and vowed to take action if any wrongdoing is found.
The inquiry was ordered by Defence Minister A K Antony to expand on the earlier report by the Indian Embassy in Rome following allegations on the role of the consultant hired by Finmeccanica to facilitate the Rs 3,546-crore deal with India. Finmeccanica is the parent company of AgustaWestland.
The first batch of the AW-101 choppers is expected to be delivered to India by the end of this year.
“Defence Minister A K Antony today directed his ministry officials to get a fresh report from the Indian Embassy in Rome following a media report alleging malpractices in the procurement of 12 helicopters for the VVIP Communication Squadrons of IAF from AgustaWestland,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Any such complaint or allegation received will be investigated and the contractual provisions will be invoked, in case if any wrong doing is established, in addition to action that may be required under law, the statement said.
In February, the Indian Embassy in Rome was asked by the government to file a report on the status of investigation being carried out by Italy against the alleged malpractice by Finmeccanica.
The Indian Embassy in Rome in its initial reply stated that the investigators there had yet not proposed to look into the Indian chopper deal by the company, official sources said.
Rejecting the allegation, AgustaWestland said it has not paid commissions or engaged in irregular conduct of any kind and noted that this has been confirmed by the Defence Ministry here.
“Neither AgustaWestland nor Finmeccanica has paid bribes of any kind. AgustaWestland has not engaged in irregular conduct of any kind, and has not paid commissions of any kind for the sale of AW-101 helicopters to the Indian government. This was confirmed by a recent investigation by the Indian Defence Ministry,” the company said in a statement.
According to a media report, Italy is investigating allegations that AgustaWestland paid a commission of over Rs 350 crore to a Switzerland-based consultant for a deal to sell choppers to India.
The contract signed by the Italian firm also contains the Integrity Pact which includes the standard provisions against use of undue influence and employment of agents and payment of agency commission, the Defence Ministry said.
Earlier, replying to a question by reporters outside Parliament House, Antony said he would “seriously” pursue the inquiry into allegations of corruption in the chopper deal.
“I can assure you I will seriously pursue the inquiry,” he said, adding that in February also, the Ministry had asked the Indian Embassy in Rome to provide a report on an investigation carried out by Italy on the issue.
“When previously the reports appeared, I had asked the Defence Secretary to immediately inquire into it. He wrote to the Indian Ambassador in Italy and he got the report,” Antony said.
The Defence Ministry in its statement said, “There were media reports also in February 2012 about investigations undertaken by Italian authorities into alleged unethical dealings by Finmeccanica Italy (the parent company of Agusta Westland). Following this, information was sought by the Defence Ministry from the Indian Embassy in Rome.
“The Indian Embassy reported that the Italian authorities were conducting preliminary investigations on allegations of financial malpractices occurring within Finmeccanica and its subsidiaries in general,” it said.
The Ministry said, “There was no specific probe being conducted on India-related transactions. There is no clear indication at this stage whether the India-related deal would be probed on the strength of preliminary investigations”.