India's defence minister A K Antony went so far as to admit on Monday that ''somebody has taken money'' in the controversial helicopter deal with Italy's Finmeccanica in which Italian authorities insist that bribes were paid.
''The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is vigorously pursuing its investigations. I have a feeling that someone has taken money. The inquiry is at a crucial stage, the defence minister told newspersons during a function in Kochi.
''We will not show mercy to anyone, however big and powerful, who has gone against the integrity pact,'' he said in a tiresomely old government platitude.
The controversy is over a contract between Finmeccanica and the Indian Air Force for the supply of 13 AgustaWestland helicopters to be used for VIP transport. Several of the copters have already been delivered; the fate of the remaining hangs in the balance.
Italian authorities claim that a 10-per cent kickback was paid to secure the Rs3,600-crore deal; and that retired Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, who headed the Indian Air Force at the time the deal was cut in 2005, was a key player in the sordid episode, along with some members of his family.
Defence minister Antony was at the Southern Naval Command in the port city to receive training ship INS Sudarshini on its return from a six-month voyage to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.
Asked if India would go ahead with the purchase of 'Black Shark' torpedoes from Italian firm WASS, controlled by armament supplier Finmeccanica, he said a final call on the acquisition has not been taken.
''Nothing has happened so far. We will proceed only as per the law. We are waiting for the inquiry [against Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland] to be over,'' he said.