The $753 million AgustaWestland deal is off.
By Rajiv Theodore
NEW DELHI: It has all the makings of a Fredrick Forsyth thriller with couple of cryptic letters threatening to spell doom for some.
The spotlight has been riveted on the scam tainted Rs 3,600 crore ($753 million) AgustaWestland chopper deal which was scrapped Wednesday by India. The deal has been roiled by kickbacks that have allegedly lined the pockets of many influential Indians. Many say that it is precisely because of this bribery angle that the deal to provide luxurious and safe aerial transport to politicians had been cancelled.
“Cancelling deals when it suits will not suffice. Whether it was 2G spectrum allocation, or coal blocks allotment or CWG, the country would not have suffered had they maintained probity in all these cases,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
With an eye on elections slated in May, the BJP had been strident in its attack against the ruling Congress, which is facing flak on all fronts for its gross mismanagement of governance. The critics are quick to point out that cancelling the deal was simply a move to protect those close to the establishment and those who received the bribes.
The deal which was cancelled Wednesday was signed in February 2010. A defence ministry statement said the government had “terminated with immediate effect the agreement” with AgustaWestland International Ltd (AWIL) to supply 12 helicopters “on grounds of breach of a pre-contract integrity pact and the agreement by AWIL”.
The deal was suspended in 2013 after Italy began looking into accusations that AgustaWestland paid bribes to win the contract. The chief of Finmeccanica was arrested last February over the case. And on November last, the chopper manufacturer sought arbitration to save the deal but was denied by the Indian government. However a defence ministry statement has said that ‘’India has now appointed its own arbitrator “.
Now the BJP is baying for blood. They are demanding to know the identities behind the cryptic letters — ‘AP’ and ‘FAM’ and ‘POL’ which had been referred in a document by Swiss businessman Guido Haschke.
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “this is a decision in desperation because serious suspicion was being raised about the involvement of people in the ruling establishment. We want to know what does ‘AP’ and the family, who are tipped to have got the money, mean…this question has not been answered yet. It is a rearguard action.”
Under the heading “POL” — Haschke has explained in court this referred to Indian politicians. The reference to “AP” has “3 million euro” been listed against it. The other is “FAM” — explained by Italian investigators in other documents as “Family” — against which “15/16 million euro” has been listed. Haschke insist that the reference FAM (family) is to the Tyagi family — three cousins of former Air Chief S P Tyagi — with which he had business ties in the past and who allegedly were partners in the commission.
By the time these Delphic words are deciphered it would surely take some time. But meanwhile, the workers at AgustaWestland’s UK factory at Yeovil are upset and hurt. They could even face an indefinite layoff. On the other hand UK may no longer be keen on giving a special partnership position to India in the future which was made tangible during the visit of British premier James Cameroon early last year after these decisive developments.
To contact the author, email to firstname.lastname@example.org