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Corruption taint on army's chopper deals.

CORRUPTION allegations on two major helicopter deals for the armed forces have sent the defence ministry into a tizzy.

The ministry has asked the Italian authorities -- whose probe into the functioning of top officials of Anglo- Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland ( AW) had given a whiff of corruption in Indian contracts -- to furnish documents indicating kickbacks and commissions that were paid by the company.

A memorandum document found with AgustaWestland consultant Guido Haschke in Italy mentions that V. S. Saini, who is currently posted at Officers Training Academy in Chennai, had made contact with the company's consultants in early 2010, specifically offering to swing the deal AgustaWestland's way in exchange for a percentage consideration on the final deal value, which worked out to nearly ` 25 crore.

He oversaw field evaluation trials for an Indian competition to purchase 197 light reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters.

The defence ministry has expressed concerns over the startling revelation and has sought documents from the Italian authorities. The army, however, claimed that it will wait to access the papers before initiating a probe.

Though AgustaWestland was eliminated from the contract for 197 light helicopters, it bagged the Indian Air Force deal to supply 12 AW 101 helicopters for VVIP use.

The fate of the 197 light helicopter deal will now be decided on Monday in the meeting of Defence Acquisition Council.

In the case of VVIP helicopter contract, the defence ministry officials said the Anglo- Italian company has signed an integrity pact and its violation can lead to severe penalties. Under the integrity pact, the companies have to give assurance that it had not used middlemen to swing the deal.

India has already made a partial payment of ` 30 billion. The first of the 12 helicopters are expected to be delivered to Indian Air Force next month for an acceptance trial.

The defence ministry sources said strict action would be taken if any wrongdoing is proved. The ministry in the past has blacklisted several international arms companies that bribed officials of the Ordnance Factories Board. These include Rheinmetall, Israel Military Industries and Singapore Technologies, among others.

According to the reports, Guido Haschke is a director in a Chandigarh based company Aero Matrix. The Italian authorities had started probing top officials of AgustaWestland earlier this year for irregularities in deals executed in Brazil and Panama.

After the first hint of wrongdoings in the Indian contracts also surfaced, the defence ministry asked the Indian mission in Rome to carry out a fact finding exercise.

Even after two attempts, the allegations could not be substantiated.

But the fresh developments have forced the defence secretary to seek more information from Italy. The officials said strict action would be taken if allegations were supported by evidence.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 27, 2012
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