New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday said the probe in the AgustaWestland helicopter graft case will focus on those named in the Italian court judgment.
“There is an agreement that corrupt practices were involved in procurement of AgustaWestland helicopters. The previous government recognised these and put on hold the group in 2014, and the present government passed the order,” Parrikar said in the Rajya Sabha, replying to a short duration discussion on the issue.
The minister said “corrupt practices” was the central matter, and it will be “unmasked” through inquiry.
“Given the above background, these inquiries will necessarily focus on the role of those named in the judgment of the Italian court. It is also important for ensuring a comprehensive investigation,” Parrikar said.
“The ministry of defence has written to both ED and CBI to take into account the contents of the judgment and conclude the investigation expeditiously,” he said.
The judgment names Congress president Sonia Gandhi, then IAF chief S.P. Tyagi, Congress leader Ahmad Patel and others.
Parrikar also said that it was “most obvious” that AgustaWestland was “favoured” at every stage of the deal.
The Congress has, however, stressed that the judgment does not indict anyone.
A dissatisfied Congress also staged a walkout from the house after Parrikar’s reply, and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said he was “disappointed” over the response.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, participating in the debate, said the mention of Sonia Gandhi, and others including Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmad Patel, in the judgement from the Milan court did not indict them, and only mentioned them as VVIPs who would use the choppers.
“By this logic all of the former including present president should be indicted… Mrs. Gandhi was mentioned as someone flying on the chopper,” he said.
Former defence minister A.K. Antony, meanwhile, told the government not to “threaten and blackmail” but to take action against the bribe takers.
“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.
The discussion that lasted around four hours also saw opposition members’ demand for a Supreme Court monitoring to the inquiry.
Several members also questioned why the issue was being debated in the Rajya Sabha when there was no conclusive evidence, and the country is facing severe problems like drought.
BJP member Subramanian Swamy, who was named by Antony as trying to threaten the Congress, meanwhile said the CBI can, as per the law, question the person mentioned as the “driving force” behind the AgustaWestland deal, indicating at Gandhi.
“The CBI has the right under Section 156 of CrPC to question the person who is mentioned in the Italian court judgment as the ‘driving force’ behind the AgustaWestland chopper deal,” Swamy said in the Rajya Sabha.
The multi-crore-rupee scam resurfaced last month after the names of some Congress leaders, including of party chief Sonia Gandhi, were said to have figured in a judgment by an Italian court.
AgustaWestland was alleged to have paid Rs.375 crore as bribe to secure the Rs.3,700-crore contract to supply 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force. The contract for purchase of helicopters for the use of VVIPs was signed in 2010. The previous UPA government scrapped the deal over charges of kickbacks.