VVIP chopper scam details can't be shared: Italian judge

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Agusta Westland Helicopter
Rome, Feb 16: Details of the ongoing investigation into the VVIP chopper deal scam cannot be shared with India as the "information is covered by secrecy", an Italian judge stressed today. The Indian embassy here was informed that "Only parties and their lawyers were allowed to have access to the information and documents."

The deal, signed in Feb 2010, has hogged the headlines ever since it emerged that Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica had paid kickbacks to some officials in India. In all, Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland was contracted to supply 12 helicopters which can comfortably transport high ranking dignitaries.

The helicopters were supposed to ferry the highest in the land like the President and the Prime Minister. The Indian Air Force (IAF) wanted these choppers to be part of its Communication Squadron.

However, the Defence Ministry is now mulling whether to cancel the deal in view of the recent disclosures on the massive corruption behind it. Arun Kumar Bal, Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager (Air), will arrive here on Feb 18 to get a clear idea of the probe and the progress made therein.

In India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already started looking into the matter. The Congress-led UPA government is under immense pressure from the opposition to find out who all were involved in the Rs 3,600 crore scam.

"This kind of monumental corruption cannot happen without the backing of a big political leader. The country wants to know who were behind the scam," BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said in Delhi.

"The Comptroller and Auditor General and every other agency wanted to inquire but the government has dissuaded them. Government tried to cover up and not divulge anything on the issue. Even they did not tell Parliament that an internal inquiry was being conducted on the Augusta Westland chopper deal," he noted.

Finmeccanica's CEO Giuseppe Orsi who was arrested on Feb 11 told an Italian magistrate today that he does not know the relatives of former IAF chief SP Tyagi. When asked if he or Finmeccanica had adopted any "illegal manoeuvres to clinch the deal, Orsi replied in the negative.

To a query about the Swiss-American middleman Guido Hashcke being given any mandate in this connection, Orsi again said "No". Incidentally, Hashcke was the one to reveal how Orsi had authorised the bribing of Indian officials with a view to facilitate the deal.

Nevertheless, Orsi's lawyer Ennio Amodio claimed that Haschke's revelation "may have been inspired by someone".

OneIndia News (with agency inputs)

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