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Wednesday , April 25 , 2012
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Govt orders fresh probe into graft charges in chopper deal        

New Delhi, Apr 25 (PTI): Government on Wednesday ordered a fresh probe into the allegations of malpractices in procurement of 12 helicopters for the VVIP Communication Squadrons of the Indian Air Force (IAF) from Italian firm Agusta Westland.        

“Any such complaint or allegation received will be investigated and the contractual provisions will be invoked, in case any wrong doing is established, in addition to action that may be required under law,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.        

Earlier, replying to a question on the issue outside Parliament House, Antony said he would ”seriously” pursue the inquiry into allegations of corruption in the chopper deal.        

“I can assure you I will seriously pursue the inquiry,” he said, adding that in February also, the Ministry had asked the Indian Embassy in Rome to provide a report on an investigation carried out by Italy on the issue.        

“When previously the reports appeared, I had asked the Defence Secretary to immediately inquire into it. He wrote to the Indian Ambassador in Italy and he got the report,” Antony said.        

The Defence Ministry in its statement said, “There were media reports also in February 2012 about investigations undertaken by Italian authorities into alleged unethical dealings by Finmeccanica Italy (the parent company of Agusta Westland). Following this, information was sought by the Defence Ministry from the Indian Embassy in Rome.

“The Indian Embassy reported that the Italian authorities were conducting preliminary investigations on allegations of financial malpractices occurring within Finmeccanica and its subsidiaries in general,” it said.

The Ministry said, “There was no specific probe being conducted on India-related transactions. There is no clear indication at this stage whether the India-related deal would be probed on the strength of preliminary investigations”.        

The contract signed by the Italian firm also contains an Integrity Pact, which includes the standard provisions against use of undue influence and employment of agents and payment of agency commission, the Ministry said.        

India signed a contract worth Rs 3,546.17 crore in February 2010, to procure 12 of these helicopters, of which eight would be for VVIP transportation and four in non-VVIP version.        The new helicopters were being procured to replace the ageing Russian-made Mi-8 helicopters that are nearing completion of their operational life.

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