Amidst allegations by newly elected Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had received bribe money in the AgustaWestland chopper deal and that she had stashed it in Geneva's Sarasin Bank, the government today clarified that the core issue behind the termination of the contract to buy 12 helicopters from Agusta Westland was corruption.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are pursuing all aspects of the investigation into corruption, including the arrests and extradition of three foreign nationals, namely, Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke Ralph and Christian Michel James.
The government said investigating agencies had issued Red Corner notices in December 2015 and January 2016 through Interpol under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Prevention of Corruption Act against Gerosa and Ralph while extradition request has also been made for Christian Michel James.
The ED had, meanwhile, arrested an Indian national and attached approximately Rs11 crore of property belonging to Indian nationals and to Christian Michel James.
The government asserted that certain trivial technicalities raised by certain parties are only intended to distract the attention from the core issue of corruption.
The contract for supply of 12 helicopters signed with AWIL on 8 February 2010 was terminated with effect from 1 January 2014. The main reason was breach of the provisions of the pre-contract integrity pact and breach of terms of contract by AWIL. While the company was not debarred by the said order, various bonds and bank guarantees were invoked.
The government on 3 July 2014 decided to put on hold the Agusta Westland helicopter deal all procurement / acquisition cases in the pipeline of six companies figuring in the FIR registered by the CBI, namely, Agusta Westland International Ltd (UK), Finmeccanica (Italy) and its group of companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, IDS (Tunisia), Infotech Design System (Mauritius), IDS Infotech Ltd (Mohali) and Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt Ltd (Chandigarh).
The government said it has not made any fresh capital procurement from these companies so far.
Meanwhile, there was mention regarding clearance of a joint venture involving Agusta Westland by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. But that proposal, the government pointed out, was approved on 2 September 2011 based on an application by Indian Rotorcraft Ltd, a joint venture of Tata Sons with Agusta Westland NV, Netherlands. This was later changed to Agusta Westland SpA, Italy due to re-organisation within the group.
On 7 February 2012, an industrial licence for the manufacture of helicopters was granted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to Indian Rotorcraft Ltd. However, the validity of the licence has since expired.