New Delhi: The ministry of defence is rushing a senior official to Italy to gather evidence on allegations of corruption in the VVIP helicopter deal, with reports from Milan saying an Italian court has rejected India’s request for the probe documents on the grounds that the “information is covered by secrecy”.
The MoD official is likely to be part of a team that will comprise officials from the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) as well. The CBI will be sending two officials, including a senior investigator and a law officer.
The MoD, meanwhile, did not comment on reports in the electronic media that the CAG had sent certain queries and sought information from the MoD on the deal, which was inked in 2010
In another development, AgustaWestland said it would respond to a showcause notice issued by the MoD on why the deal should not be cancelled in the wake of allegations of bribery to secure the deal.
According to news agency reports from Milan, the Indian embassy in Rome received a communication on Saturday from the judge of preliminary investigations of the tribunal at Busto Arsizio stating that it was “not possible to give a positive reply” to the Indian request.
In the letter received by the Indian embassy, the judge reportedly said, “The investigations were, in fact, at a preliminary stage, during which, as per Article 329 of the code of penal procedure, all information is covered by secrecy. Only parties and their lawyers were allowed to have access to the information and documents.” The Italian judge, however, is reported to have told the Indian embassy that his office will consider a fresh request' from the Indian side once the secrecy obligations in the matter get over.
Will consider ‘fresh request’: Italy
The judge of preliminary investigations of the tribunal at Busto Arsizio is reported to have told the Indian embassy that his office will consider a 'fresh request' from the Indian side once the secrecy obligations in the matter get over.
Meanwhile, the Centre on Saturday said, “The MoD is deputing a senior joint secretary to Italy to gather as much evidence as possible relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 12 AW101 VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force. The official, A.K. Bal, will be leaving for Rome as early as on Monday.”
A ministry official pointed out that Mr Bal is currently posted as the joint secretary (air acquisitions) in the defence ministry. The MoD has already initiated the process to cancel the deal and Agust-aWestland has been given a week to respond to the showcause notice from the MoD.
Meanwhile external affairs minister Salman Khurshid on Saturday said that all procedures were “strictly followed” by the UPA government in the VVIP chopper deal and the matter should not be politicised.
“I don’t think it is right to politicise the issue. It is a matter of national interest. All procedures were strictly followed by the government,” he told Indian journalists accompanying him on a two-day visit to Bangladesh. He asked all political parties, including the Opposition, “not to get distracted from the core issue. The core issue is to get to the bottom of the facts.”