Where do we stand on VVIP helicopter deal, asks Agusta Westland of MoD

New DelhiIndian Defence Ministry is likely to be forced into taking a position on the status of Rs. 4,000-crore VVIP helicopter contract with Anglo-Italian defence giant AgustaWestland.

Italian prosecutors had alleged that officials of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, had allegedly paid bribes to Indian officials including a former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi.

UK-based AgustaWestland has written an official letter to the MoD invoking a clause in the contract that allows bilateral discussion for dispute resolution which in effect may force the Defence Ministry to take a clear position on the status of the contract that involves supply of 12 VVIP helicopters for use of Indian Prime Minister and other top dignitaries.

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In the letter, the company’s Managing Director Raymond Edwards has denied any wrong doing. “We state unequivocally that the Co has never breached any procurement rules.” It has also said that it is forced to invoke legal provisions for bilateral discussion to resolve the issue because it has “previously written number of letters but not received any response (from India).”

Although there was initially a possibility of the contract being terminated by the MoD by invoking the integrity clause in built in any defence contract in India, the MoD has so far refrained from doing so because of an ongoing CBI inquiry in India and a prosecution process in Italy.

Sources in MoD have confirmed to NDTV that the ministry has received the April 16 letter from Agusta but so far no reply has been sent. No decision has been taken either on what to do with the first three Agusta helicopters that have been delivered to the IAF. Three more helicopters are ready for delivery in the UK but because of lack of clarity on the status of the contract, their fate continues to hang in balance.

Meanwhile, CBI is preparing to send requests for more information from Italy, UK, Tunisia and Mauritius on Indian companies suspected to be involved in the 4,000-crore VVVIP helicopter scam.