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Nobody will be spared: Antony

New Delhi, Feb 13 (Reuters & PTI) : The government will blacklist Finmeccanica SpA and cancel a deal to buy 12 helicopters from the Italian defence group if allegations of bribery are proven against the company, Defence Ministry A.K. Antony said on Wednesday.

Antony said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had been ordered to investigate the purchase of the luxury choppers, planned for use by VVIPs. He said that if the allegations were proved true, those involved would be punished.

“If anybody is guilty, they will have to pay the price, we will have to take actions, no one will be spared,” he told reporters.

On Tuesday, Italian police arrested Finmeccanica's chief executive Giuseppe Orsi for alleged bribes paid to secure the sale of 12 AgustaWestland executive helicopters to the Indian Air Force, when he was head of the Finmeccanica helicopter unit.

Antony said that so far internal enquiries by the defence ministry have found no evidence against Finmeccanica in the $754 million helicopter deal. He refused to answer specific questions about the Italian allegations and said the CBI investigation would find the truth.

The minister formally ordered the CBI to investigate the deal after Orsi's arrest on Tuesday. It was not clear why the agency had not been asked to investigate before.

Antony criticized Italy for not responding to requests for information about the allegations uncovered by Italian investigators.

”From day one, we have been trying to find out the truth and we conveyed that to them,” he said. “So far we have not received any details.”

“Once we get the preliminary inquiry report from CBI, strongest action will be taken against those found guilty,” he said.

Asked about reports of the alleged role of former IAF chief SP Tyagi in the deal, the Minister said, “I have no information.”

“After the CBI report, we will take serious action that may include cancelling the deal,” he said.        ”We don't want to jump the gun. We can get our money back even at this stage,” Antony said on the Rs 3600 crore deal.

He referred to the actions taken by the government in such cases, where six foreign defence firms were blacklisted.

“I told you earlier that a CBI inquiry... after their first report, they recommended certain actions against companies. The moment we received the complaint, we did not hesitate, we blacklisted six companies. Out of that four are most powerful international companies,” he said.

Antony stressed that tough action will be taken against the guilty, despite their stature.

“We are not bothered about who the companies are, how strong they are and how influential they are. But everything depends on the CBI inquiry. The moment we get a report from the CBI, whoever is found guilty, Indian or foreigners, we will take strongest action against them. They will have to pay the price for their lapses,” he said.

Asked whether the scam will impact other deals under consideration with AugustaWestland and Finmeccanica, Antony said such an action will depend on the result of CBI inquiry.

He said no time line has been fixed for the CBI to give its report.


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