BJP lawmaker demands probe into ‘favour’ shown to Italian shipping firm

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday demanded a probe into the alleged favour shown to an Italian shipbuilding firm during the Congress-led UPA regime for procurement of two major naval fleet tankers, INS Deepak and INS Shakti.

The firm Fincantieri allegedly used inferior quality of steel in the naval tankers.

While there are unconfirmed reports that the NDA government has ordered a preliminary probe into the deal after taking cognizance of adverse comments from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2010, BJP MP and a member of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Kirit Somaiya on Saturday told TV channels, “the issue is serious and it demands investigation”.

BJP sources indicated that the ruling party members could even press for taking up the issue by the Public Accounts Committee of parliament.

“The Congress party is trying to say that the VVIP helicopters (AgustaWestland deal) belonging to Italy and even the ship company being from Italy is a coincidence. But I feel this cannot be a mere coincidence. Let us wait for some investigation and then when the findings are out, we can move ahead fast,” said Somaiya.

The BJP and NDA members are likely to demand that the PAC should take up examination of matters concerning the AgustaWestland chopper deal.

The Indian Navy has two fleet tankers INS Deepak and INS Shakti, both built by Italian shipbuilding firm Fincantieri. The ships provide the Indian Navy’s frontline warships with fuel, water and other essentials while out at sea.

The construction of the vessel INS Shakti began in November 2009 and was handed over to India in September 2011 and later commissioned on October 1, 2011, while INS Deepak was commissioned into service on January 21, 2011.

Each tanker cost the exchequer around Rs.936 crore.

A 2010 CAG report had pointed out inadequacies in the deal, citing undue favours to a foreign vendor.

Lately, allegations have surfaced that instead of using weapons grade steel, commercial grade steel was used for building the two vessels.

–IANS

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