Govt yet to identify bribe-takers in VVIP chopper deal: BJP

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AK Antony
New Delhi, Mar 25: Even as Defence Minister AK Antony admitted that Indian officials had been bribed by Italian firm Finmeccanica to help its British subsidiary AgustaWestland clinch the VVIP chopper deal, the BJP on Monday hit out at the government for not acting swiftly to prosecute all those who received the kickbacks.

The main opposition party slammed the ruling coalition's failure to identify the bribe-takers. BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj noted that none of the culprits have been brought to book so far. He said that the government is making vague statements abou taking action but doing little in this regard.

Earlier in the day, Antony confirmed the allegations of massive corruption in the Rs 3600 crore chopper deal. Addressing newspersons in Kochi, he said: "I do feel somebody has taken money. The enquiry is at a crucial stage. We will not show mercy to anybody and will take action, however powerful he may be."

He was referring to the CBI probe into the matter. "Please wait for some more time. There is no doubt very strict action would be taken against those involved," Antony assured.

Last month, the CBI registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) in the controversial deal. Shashi P Tyagi, former chief of the Indian Air Force, as well as three of his cousins namely Rajeev Tyagi alias Docsa, Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie and Sandeep Tyagi were named in the PE. The agency is also looking into the role played by four companies and some middlemen who are suspected to have paid kickbacks to the Tyagis.

About the proposed change in defence acquisition policy, Antony pointed out that the UPA "has been emphasising on indigenisation in defence procurement". He added that the "new policy preparation has reached the final stages".

Incidentally, BJP has expressed concern over a "conceptual shift" in the procurement policy. Yashwant Sinha who served as Union Finance Minister during the NDA regime feels that the clause pertaining to 'life cycle cost' (LCC) of defence equipment could be misused.

In his letter to Antony, Sinha stressed that the vendors should be bound by an "enforceable contract" to prevent them from misusing the clause.

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