UPA blacklisted AgustaWestland, NDA removed it from list: Congress

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New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) The Congress on Tuesday accused the Modi government of “promoting” the AgustaWestland comany, saying the then UPA government immediately cancelled the copper deal in the wake of reports on “wrongdoing” in the deal.

The National Democratic Alliance government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, withdrew the name of the Italian company from the government’s blacklist, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma told a press conference in Parliament House here.

It was the Congress that was “actually entitled to raise question on the issue” and not the NDA government, which has accused the Congress leadership of wrongdoing in the deal, he said.

“We cancelled the deal immediately after reports suggested that there was something wrong, blacklisted the company and initiated a legal battle against it,” Sharma said.

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The Congress leader said despite the fact that AgustaWestland was blacklisted and banned by the previous Congress-led government, the Narendra Modi government removed its name from the blacklist and invited it for its ‘Make in India’ programme.

Giving details, Sharma said the whole business of buying helicopters for the Indian Air Force from AgustaWestland was started during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule when a technical evaluation committee shortlisted the firm’s helicopter.

“It was only in 2012 that some reports of wrongdoing appeared,” he said, adding that the then UPA government took notice and inititated legal battle against the Italian firm.

“We recovered all the money (involved in the deal) by confiscating their bank guarantee,” he said.

The then defence minister A.K. Antony sought a report on the matter from the Indian mission in Rome, the Congress leader said, and clarified that the UPA government did nothing wrong in the case.

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“No government in the world took action (in a case with such promptness) as we did,” he said, adding that it was the Congress’ turn to ask questions in the case as to how the Modi government removed the firm from the blacklist.

Sharma said the UPA government, after cancelling the deal with AgustaWestland, took it to court and directed the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to investigate the matter.

The BJP, earlier in the day, asked Antony to clarify if any Congress leader was involved in accepting bribe in the $750 million AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal.

Bribery allegations in the deal for the 12 AW-101 choppers were being probed by the CBI.



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