Get probe details from Italy, Antony tells officials in MoD
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The probe into corruption charges by the Italian authorities into a contract for VVIP helicopters for India has taken a serious turn with the Defence Ministry being instructed to get details of the investigation from Rome.
Sources said Defence Minister A K Antony has now instructed officials to write to Italian authorities, requesting for information about the ongoing probe into the 2010 contract in which India had ordered 12 VVIP helicopters in a Rs 3,546-crore deal.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the deal had come under the scanner for corruption allegations and Italy has been investigating the role of two alleged middlemen who took a commission from Agusta Westland to influence government officials.
With fresh reports indicating the case has progressed beyond the initial stage and that Italian authorities are probing the role of Indians in alleged malpractices, the defence ministry has decided to write to the Italian government.
This marks a stronger interest in the case by the Defence Ministry, given that in the past it had just instructed the Indian embassy in Italy for a report on ongoing investigation. The embassy report had earlier this year said there were no indications that the probe was specifically against the Indian chopper contract.
However, recent developments that include the testimony given by Italian prosecutors in court, have confirmed that the investigation pertains mainly to the Indian helicopter contract. Defence Ministry officials said the reports are being taken seriously but refused to comment on what penal action is possible against the manufacturer, in case discrepancies are found.
While the first of the 12 helicopters on order are expected to join service next month, the ministry can invoke clauses of the integrity pact that is standard for all defence contracts. According to the pact, bank guarantees can be impounded if graft charges are proven in the contract and a hefty fine can also be imposed.
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