Speaking in the Lok Sabha after the matter was raised by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Anurag Thakur, the defence minister said former assistant chief of air staff (plans) of the Indian Air Force N.V. Tyagi and city-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan, the two accused in the Rs.3,600-crore chopper scam, were "small people".
"Be it Tyagi or Khaitan, they are small people. Inhone to sirf bahti Ganga me hath dhone ka kaam kiya hai. Bahti Ganga kaha jaa rahi hai, ye dhoondhne ko maine Enforcement Directorate (ED) se kaha hai. (They just joined the bandwagon and I have asked the ED to find out where the real flow of money was heading)," Parikkar said.
BJP member Thakur raised the matter through a 'calling attention' motion over the recent disclosure by an Italian court about alleged irregularities in the AgustaWestland deal.
Without taking its name, Parrikar took a jibe at the Congress, saying: "Where this river is flowing was clear in the Rajya Sabha that day. Unke gale me khujli ho rahi thi. Ganga kaha jaa rahi hai unko malum hai."
The minister said that the previous Congress-led government did everything to award the contract to AgustaWestland.
"They relaxed everything. But when the matter came to light, they didn't even take action against the company," he said.
Parrikar said the previous regime's action against the deal was forced by circumstances and the inquiry into it was not initiated until it was unavoidable.
"Procurement procedure was not followed in the deal and there was also discrepancies in the base price. The UPA regime knew about the scam in February 2012, but still three helicopters were delivered in December. The Central Bureau of Investigation registered an FIR in the matter in March 2013, but the copy of FIR was not forwarded to the Enforcement Directorate till December," Parikkar said.
He said the ED took notice of the case only in July 2014 after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power.
The minister also said that the documents of the Milan court are in Italian and its translation was not easy.
"The documents are of approximately 1.21 lakh pages. Of which 42,000 are in English and 57 pages are in Hindi. Translating rest of the documents was not easy. I also faced the same problem," he said.