SC dismisses advocate's plea to probe VVIP chopper deal

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AgustaWestland Chopper
New Delhi, Mar 1: The public interest litigation filed by a lawyer who sought a Supreme Court monitored probe by either a special investigation team or the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) into the VVIP chopper deal was rejected by the apex court on Friday.

"This is not the right forum and not out job," said the court while turning down advocate ML Sharma's plea. He had also appealed for a specific direction to the Defence Ministry to cancel the deal.

As per the contract signed with Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica in Feb 2010, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was supposed to receive as many as 12 AW101 helicopters from Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland.

However, in 2011 it emerged that middlemen engaged by Finmeccanica had paid kickbacks worth Rs 362 crore to clinch the Rs 3600-crore deal. ML Sharma's main contention was that the ruling UPA ignored such reports and did not bother to find out who all were bribed.

It was only last month that Defence Minister AK Antony asked the CBI to look into the matter. However, the advocate believes that the agency is not free from government control and hence any enquiry conducted by it will not bring out the truth.

Investigators in Italy have already taken Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi into custody for allegedly engaging one of the company's consultants Guido Ralph Haschke to convince Indian officials about going ahead with the deal. AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini has also been arrested in this connection.

Italian prosecutors have seized transcripts of Haschke's conversations in which he mentions the payment of kickbacks to several persons including former IAF chief SP Tyagi and his cousins. However, the Air Chief Marshall (retired) claims that the charges are wrong.

CBI sleuths visited Italy in Feb to obtain details of the Italian probe into the matter. The team did return with some documents but apparently more information is needed in order to help the agency identify the exact bribe-takers.

ML Sharma has pointed out the irony in the fact that Italy is actively investigating the allegations of corruption even though the country will forfeit a golden chance to benefit if the deal is scrapped. Meanwhile India is hesitating to take action against the culprits despite losing hundreds of crores.

OneIndia News

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