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Government divided over cancelling Finmeccanica copter deal news
18 February 2013

The government is divided on whether or not to cancel the AgustaWestland helicopter deal in the wake of the bribery allegations against former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi.

According to CNN-IBN sources, the Prime Minister's Office is unhappy with the proposal to cancel the deal. On the other hand, defence minister A K Antony is inclined to cancel the deal.

External affairs minister Salman Khurshid said late last week that the show cause notice is just the first step, and indicated the government may not go all the way. "Whether we are planning to cancel or not, I don't know. There is a provision for cancelling. I think the government is entitled to give a show cause notice, and we have given a show cause notice. But any further steps that are taken should be taken keeping in mind both our entitlement as far as the contracts are concerned and the implications for ourselves," Khurshid said.

Meanwhile a joint probe team comprising a senior investigating officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and a law officer, along with officials of ministry of defence, is likely to leave for Italy on Tuesday to probe the allegations of kickbacks in the Rs3,760 crore deal for 12 AgustaWestland helicopters choppers signed with Italian contractor Finmeccanica.

The team was expected to leave on Sunday, but has got delayed for unexplained reasons.

Officials said the team would meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain the details of the case.

The CBI has engaged a lawyer in Italy to represent India's case with the Italian government and the local courts to find out the role of Indians in the alleged kickbacks in the helicopter deal. The team comprises a CBI deputy inspector general, a law officer of the agency, a joint secretary in the defence ministry and an official of the external affairs ministry, the sources said.

An Italian probe report claims that three cousins of former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi were among the beneficiaries of kickbacks worth around Rs360 crore in the deal. However, S P Tyagi's cousin Sanjeev Tyagi on Saturday rubbished allegations of his involvement in the deal in an interview to CNN-IBN.

Speaking to Rajdeep Sardesai, Sanjeev, who is mentioned in the Italian probe reports as 'Julie' Tyagi, said that the allegations against him and his cousin S P Tyagi were baseless and had maligned the image of their families.

"I have no links with AgustaWestland. I am not aware of any deal. I did not receive any payment. (Guido Ralph) Haschke is lying. Finnmeccanica is trying to cover up its own bungling. The charges are baseless. It is very easy to tarnish someone's reputation, but can the media pay it back?" he said.

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Government divided over cancelling Finmeccanica copter deal