New Delhi: Former defence minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday said it was “beyond doubt bribe was given” in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal and it is the duty of the present-day government to punish those guilty.
Participating in the Rajya Sabha debate on the issue of AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal payoffs, Antony also said the government should not politicise the issue or “threaten” and “blackmail”.
“It is true… beyond doubt there is corruption in this deal… All legal hurdles are over, you have to act now,” Antony said.
“Now corruption has been proved, we can win the arbitration case… get thousands of crores of rupees as compensation,” Antony added.
“Now that corruption has been proved, take action against the bribe takers… It is your duty, not my duty. Immediately blacklist them for 10 years. It is proved this company is a corrupt company, don’t involve them in any Make in India projects,” he said.
The former defence minister, however, said the issue should not be politicised.
“Don’t politicise the issue, you will repent… Take strongest action against whoever may have taken money. Don’t try to threaten people,” he said.
Antony even named Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Subramanian Swamy, and after objection from treasury benches, changed it to “honourable member”. He said “don’t threaten us. If you have all evidences, take action and prosecute. Don’t threaten and don’t blackmail,” he said.
The Congress leader also gave a point by point rebuttal of charges levelled by the ruling party, and said the change in norms, including altitude the chopper could scale and height of its cabin, was decided during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He also said that officials from the defence ministry, external affairs ministry and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) attended all hearings of the case in Italy at the time.
Asked why the initial decision to buy eight choppers was increased to 12, the Congress leader said only eight choppers were meant to be for VIP use, and rest were for non-VIP use.
On the blacklisting of AgustaWestland, Antony said the then solicitor general had advised that intimidatory action could have affected India’s case to get the security money back, which is why the government went slow on it, and then they were out of power.
On the question why a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was not constituted, the former defence minister said: “We made commitment in the house that we were ready for a JPC, but the leader of opposition at that time said no.”