Agusta probe to focus on names in Italy court judgment: Parrikar

New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday said the probe in the AgustaWestland helicopter graft case will focus on those named in the Italian court judgment.

“There is an agreement that corrupt practices were involved in procurement of AgustaWestland helicopters. The previous government recognised these and put on hold the group in 2014, and the present government passed the order,” Parrikar said in the Rajya Sabha, replying to a short duration discussion on the issue.

The minister said “corrupt practices” is the central matter, and it will be “unmasked” through inquiry.

“Given the above background, these inquiries will necessarily focus on the role of those named in the judgment of the Italian court. It is also important for ensuring a comprehensive investigation,” Parrikar said.

The judgment names Congress president Sonia Gandhi, then IAF chief S.P. Tyagi, Congress leader Ahmad Patel and others.

The Congress has, however, stressed that the judgment does not indict anyone.

The minister, in an around-45 minute long reply, read out a detailed statement and gave a list of what was wrong in the deal.

Opposition Congress objected to the fact that he was reading out from a written statement without laying a copy on the table of the house. The party later staged a walkout after his speech.

Parrikar said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is on a “money trail” and that in the past some “invisible hands” seemed to have been “guiding the actions” of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate.

“CBI which registered an FIR in March 2013, did not bother to forward a copy of FIR to ED for nine months. Even more strangely, ED did not act on the FIR till July 2014,” said Parrikar.

“It appears that some invisible hands were guiding the actions or inactions by CBI and ED. After present government took over, CBI and ED have been vigorously pursuing all aspects,” he added.

On the current status, the minister said: “CBI is on the money trail, but I cannot give details. Where the money went, we are finding that.”

Giving out details of the deal, the minister said that the requirements of the chopper were changed to accommodate AgustaWestland’s bid.

“The RFP (Request For Proposal) was issued to AgustaWestland, Italy, and the response to RFP was received from AgustaWestland International Limited, UK, which was not the entity to which RFP was issued. The bid should have been rejected immediately as it was not the company to which RFP was issued,” said the minister.

The minister also pointed out that field trial was done on a representative helicopter, and not on AW101 which India was to buy.

“Field trial was conducted on a representative helicopter and not on the actual helicopter,” he said.

He also questioned the conduct of trial outside India.

“Conduct of trial in India is extremely critical because the climate, terrain and topography vary as compared to that of USA and UK. This crucial aspect has been given a go-by,” he said.

He also said that the trials in India after three choppers were received proved to be a failure.

“When three helicopters were received and were being test-tried, at 5,400 feet in Srinagar, the effective payload of this helicopter was nil,” the minister said.

He also said that sorties could not be taken in Gulmarg and Pehalgam either, and added that the information was found in a file that was saved by chance from a fire that took place on June 3, 2014.

–IANS

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