labels: EADS, Aerospace, News reports, Indian Army, Eurocopter, Thales
French foreign minister admits military helicopter deal off, Eurocopter will re-bid news
21 December 2007

New Delhi: Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France, has admitted that a deal for EADS unit Eurocopter to supply 197 helicopters to the Indian Army had been officially cancelled.

Bernard Kouchner said he was "not satisfied" about the $600 million deal being nullified, but asserted that Eurocopter would re-bid once India floats fresh global tenders.

The Indian defence ministry had announced early on in the month (Dec 6) that Eurocopter's successful tender for the helicopters had been scrapped, but uncertainty prevailed with Eurocopter and the French embassy here contesting the validity of that announcement.

Media reports appearing locally have alleged that their was the likely presence of a middleman in the deal, which goes against rules governing defence contracts in the country.

Eurocopter, part of aerospace giant European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), was also accused of presenting a civilian helicopter instead of a military version for statutory field trials by the Indian army.

"I am not satisfied, but we have been told by the Indian government that the bidding process has to be launched again because of procedural details," Kouchner told reporters. "Yes, we can complain but it is useless to complain ... So we have to participate in the new bidding process," Kouchner said.

"This is not the end of the story ... we will win the new bidding process." Reports suggest that the issue apparently figured during Kouchner's overnight meeting with his counterpart Pranab Mukherjee.

Eurocopter was vying fro a contract to sell 60 Fennec military helicopters in a fly-away condition to India, while the remaining 137 were to be assembled at state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in India.

Another high-profile arms deal involving France also came under the scanner during Kouchner's two-day visit with an Indian court ordering police on Thursday to complete a probe into charges that a bribe was paid in a 2.4 billion euro ($3 billion) deal to buy Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines.

The order came after an Indian NGO, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, alleged New Delhi was shielding Indian middlemen who took commissions from French defence giant Thales in the deal. Thales and the French government have denied the allegations.

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French foreign minister admits military helicopter deal off, Eurocopter will re-bid