Wednesday, May 04, 2016
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'Invisible hand' prevented Agusta probe earlier, says ParrikarDefence Minister Manohar Parikkar speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI photo/TV grab

'Invisible hand' prevented Agusta probe earlier, says Parrikar

Defence Minister presents chopper deal sequence, Sonia 'welcomes revelations'04 May 2016 | 9:17 PM

NEW DELHI: Targeting the previous UPA regime over the controversial AgustaWestland deal, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said the ongoing probe will focus on those named in the Italian Court judgement even as he suggested the role of an "invisible hand" in preventing a proper investigation earlier.

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New Delhi, May 4

Targeting the previous UPA regime over the controversial AgustaWestland deal, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said the ongoing probe will focus on those named in the Italian Court judgement even as he suggested the role of an "invisible hand" in preventing a proper investigation earlier.

He, along with Parliamentary Affairs Venkaiah Naidu, rejected the opposition demand for Supreme Court-monitored probe, protesting which Congress staged a walkout.

Replying to a debate in Rajya Sabha on the controversy surrounding the Rs 3,600-crore deal for 12 VVIP helicopters, Parrikar said there was "relentless push" by the UPA to go in for the AgustaWestland choppers.

“They are most welcome,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on BJP’s “revelations” earlier in the day.

Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, has accused the Centre of pursuing a politically motivated campaign to defame the grand old party through the AgustaWestland scam.

Narrating amid repeated disruptions the sequence of events related to the deal, Parrikar said CBI had registered a case on March 12, 2013 but it did not bother to forward a copy of the FIR to ED for nine months.

Later, ED did not act on the FIR till July 2014, he said.

"It appears an invisible hand was guiding action or inaction of CBI and ED," the Minister said.

Noting that a probe was already underway, he said, the "inquiry will focus on roles of those named in the judgement of Italian court.. Government will leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice those involved in the scam."

He said CBI has already done a lot of investigation and is currently on the money trail to track down where the bribe money went.

“Pursuant to the judgement of the Milan appellate court, the Defence Ministry has written to both ED and CBI to take into account contents of the judgement and conclude the investigations expeditiously," Parrikar said.

He added that the Defence Ministry is initiating the process of blacklisting the companies concerned and for legal proceedings for recovery of damages.

Beginning his speech by promising to not take names so that there is no disturbance, the Defence Minister mentioned an anecdote of Birbal related to a "theft" to suggest that the Congress was unnerved, fearing the truth would implicate it.

"The country wants to know who instigated, supported and benefited from the corruption. We cannot let this pass," Parrikar said.

He added that the fact that there was corruption in matter is brought out in extensive details in recent judgments of Milan court.

"A litany of omissions and commissions at various stages of the decision making process indicate malafide and corrupt actions, driven by a goal to favour a particular vendor," the Defence Minister said.

Hitting out at the UPA government, he said the field trials of the chopper were conducted in Italy even though it was necessary for it to be held in Indian conditions.

Parrikar said the helicopter offered by AgustaWestland was still in "development stage" and hence the trials were conducted on a different helicopter.

He took a dig at former Defence Minsiter A K Antony who had said he had written down his objections of trials, saying he is aware as it was Antony's "habit" to do so.

Parrikar said even though the reports of wrongdoings and unethical conduct by Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland had surfaced in 2012, followed by arrest of its CEO, the action of putting on hold all procurement cases with the accused group of companies in pipeline was approved by Antony only on May 12, 2014 towards the fag end of the its government.

“It was the present government which finally issued the order on July 3, 2014," he said. — Agencies

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04 May 2016 | 9:05 PM

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