Free Press Journal

AgustaWestland: FM rebuts AK Antony, says chopper was never blacklisted



Thiruvananthapuram :  Sharpening the attack on Congress on the chopper deal on  Saturday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said the theory that the company was blacklisted during the UPA rule and it was lifted by NDA was a “figment of imagination”.

Jaitley disputed the statement of former Defence Minister A K Antony that the UPA regime had blacklisted AgustaWestland after the bribe issue come out on the chopper deal.

Targeting Antony, he said the statement given by him to the party suffers from a “misnomer” as much as its mentions that the company was blacklisted by the UPA regime and that it was lifted by the NDA. “This is a figment of somebody’s imagination,” Jaitley, a former defence minister, said during an interaction with the audience after releasing the NDA vision document for the May 16 Kerala assembly polls here.

He alleged that the decision to award the contract was influenced by bribery. “The buck stops with those who took the decision and the decision was influenced by bribery. The fact that there was bribery is unquestionably there. There is a transaction in which bribe giver is being convicted. We are only struggling to find out the identity of the bribe taker,” he said. “Obviously, the bribe taker has to be among those who influenced to award the contract. Strangers don’t get bribes. Those who influenced decision get bribes,” Jaitley added.

Stating that the company was never blacklisted, Jaitley said blacklisting of a company takes place if guilt is established.

Giving details, he said the defence minister of UPA regime had passed an order in May 2014 when its ouster was imminent after the elections, saying that all contracts with Augusta should be put on hold.

After NDA came to power, a detailed order putting on hold all transactions with Augusta was passed on June 9, 2014. The matter was referred to the Attorney General, who opined that past supplies might require some repairs and spare parts. “Defence preparedness of the country may be hurt if we stop that also…Therefore those can go on, but future contracts shall be put on hold till the matter is investigated,” Jaitely said, adding an order in this regard was passed on July 3, 2014.

Bureau adds: Meanwhile, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is busy preparing a case with the help of a core group of top Defence Ministry officials to put former Defence Minister A K Antony in the box in the Rajya Sabha next week for allegedly protecting AgustaWestland despite the alleged irregularities in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal becoming public in 2012.

Sources said Parrikar will ask Antony why the ministry did not terminate the contract in 2012 instead of waiting till January 1, 2014 and why the matter was not handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation immediately instead of waiting till the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, Chief Executive and Chairman of Finmeccanica, the Italy-based parent company of AgustaWestland.

They said even then the Enforcement Directorate was not brought in picture as it was only the Modi Government that referred the matter to the ED to probe how the bribe money reached the bribe takers in India since it definitely involved money laundering.

Parrikar will also question Antony on the timing of his actions since the contract was finally terminated by him on January 1, 2014, only when the defence ministry was legally compelled to do so. He has no doubts about the integrity of Antony as a “clean man” in the Manmohan Singh government and hence he suspects that Antony was definitely under pressure from those in his Congress party to overlook the wrongs that came to his attention.