Agusta hand may hold back Tata's helicopter dream.
THE Tata group's association with AgustaWestland for setting a helicopter manufacturing unit in the country has hit a roadblock as the Union Home Ministry is reluctant to give security clearance to the project citing allegations of corruption against the Anglo-Italian company in a defence deal.
Sources said there are concerns and the ministry is jittery to give a security clearance as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing AgustaWestland in the Rs 3,700 VVIP helicopter contract which has been scrapped. The agency is investigating whether Indian officials were bribed to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland. According to reports, kickbacks worth Rs 362 crore were paid.
"The security clearance is pending for some time as there are issues relating to the CBI case against AgustaWestland," said a senior home ministry official.
Despite the allegations being probed, AgustaWestland is still not a blacklisted company.
"We are also of the view that just because some officials were bribed why should a project be stalled. But it's a sensitive issue; we need to work cautiously to avoid any controversy," the home ministry official added.
In 2009, AgustaWestland signed an MoU with Tatas for assembling AW 119 Kx helicopters.
Indian Rotorcraft Limited, the proposed joint venture was to begin assembling in 2011 but it was extended to April 2014.
"IRL will export the assembled helicopters to AgustaWestland for it to sell to its customers. IRL has obtained all necessary approvals from the government," a Tata Sons spokesperson said in a statement.
Tatas clarified that the joint venture (JV) with AgustaWestland has no connection with the controversial helicopter deal of the Indian Air Force for the purchase of AW101 helicopters. "IRL business remit does not include any selling activity for defence related entities. At a future date, IRL could sell helicopters to the Indian domestic civil market for civilian usage. This is in line with the proposed joint venture's stated intent to operate only in the civilian market," the Tata Sons statement said.
It is alleged that the service ceiling or the altitude at which a helicopter can fly was changed from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres only to allow UK-based AgustaWestland, which is a subsidiary of Italian company Finmecanica.
Without the change, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.
The change was suggested by Air Headquarters.
The CBI has named former Air Chief S. P. Tyagi along with his cousins in the FIR registered by it in March last year. The deal was scrapped by the government after the illegalities were exposed and the CBI registered a case.
The government then cancelled the deal of purchasing 12 helicopters, three of which were already delivered and recovered an amount of over Rs 2,000 crore.
The CBI is planning to examine two Governors in the case.
TATA SONS STATEMENT
Indian Rotorcraft Limited (IRL), the proposed joint venture with AgustaWestland, is for assembling AW119Kx helicopters. IRL will export the assembled helicopters to AgustaWestland for it to sell to its customers. IRL has obtained all necessary approvals from the government. IRL business remit does not include any selling activity for defence related entities. At a future date, IRL could sell helicopters to the domestic civil market for civilian usage. This is in line with the proposed venture's stated intent to operate only in the civilian market.
IRL has no connections with the IAF purchase of AW101 helicopters.
Copyright 2014 India Today Group. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. ( Syndigate.info ).