M A I N   N E W S

Govt ready to discuss copter deal: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
Having come under attack from the Opposition on allegations of kickback in the VVIP helicopter deal, the Manmohan Singh Government today gave ample indication that it is ready to discuss the issue suggesting that Parliament was the appropriate forum for it.

“Parliament is the appropriate forum to discuss all issues raised by the Opposition. We are ready for any discussion”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here on the sidelines of a function here in response to questions on threat by the opposition to raise it in Parliament.

With the Budget session of Parliament scheduled to begin on Thursday, progress of the corruption case in Italy and allegations of some people in India having received Rs 360 crore to facilitate the deal for procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters is bound to cast a long shadow.

The BJP and the CPM have attacked the Government for the delay in launching a probe into the issue that first surfaced almost a year ago. While the BJP wanted the Government to keep the procurement on the hold, the CPM demanded cancellation of the Rs 3,500 crore contract .

However, sources in the ministry maintained there was neither an internal probe nor any delay but no response at all from authorities in Italy.

Aware that the allegations of kickback blew up in its face despite the Ministry having taken strong and deterrent action like cancellation of purchase and blacklisting of companies on receiving complaints of corruption in procurement, effort is to iterate the case when Parliament convenes.

“We have nothing to hide”, a senior minister said adding that the fact sheet has already been put in the public domain by the Ministry of Defence.

The Ministry had released the document a day after a court in Italy ordered the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, the then Chief Executive Officer of Finmecannia, the parent company of Agusta Westland, which manufactures helicopters.

As for the decision to launch a CBI probe and serving a show cause notice to Finmecannia to respond whether or not kickbacks were paid, sources in the Ministry said it was an administrative issue that does not require any permission from other than the Minister concerned.

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy launched a direct attack on the Defence Minister, saying “This is a monumental scam in which kickbacks of Rs 360 crore were paid. Antony is now giving several orders and statements and is struggling to keep his Mr Clean image. But the fact remains that he has been Defence Minister since October 24, 2006.”





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