New Delhi: In his first public comments on the tainted Rs 3600 crore Italian chopper deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government has nothing to hide while adding that the government is ready to discuss everything at a Parliamentary forum on the chopper deal. "Parliament is the forum to discuss everything and we are ready to discuss everything there. We have nothing to hide," said the Prime Minister.
Earlier, sources said that the Prime Minister's Office was reportedly unhappy with the unilateral proposal of the Defence Ministry to cancel the AgustaWestland 101 helicopter deal. Defence Minister AK Antony is reportedly inclined to cancel the deal in view of the bribery allegations against former Indian Air Force head Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi.
The government, however, is non-committal on axing the AgustaWestland deal. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the showcause notice is just the first step, but indicated the government may not go all the way.
"Whether we are planning to cancel or not, I don't know. There is a provision for cancelling, I think the government is entitled to give a showcause notice, they have given a showcause notice. But any further steps that are taken should be taken, keeping in mind, both our entitlement as far as the contracts are concerned and the implications for ourselves," Khurshid said.
Meanwhile, a Central Bureau of Investigation team will leave for Italy on Tuesday to investigate whether firms were floated in India just to route kickbacks. The team will try to meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain details of the case.
The CBI has engaged a lawyer in Italy to represent India's case with the Italian government and the local courts to find out the role of Indians in the alleged kickbacks in the VVIP helicopter deal. The team comprises a CBI DIG, a law officer of the agency, a Joint Secretary level officer of Defence Ministry and an official of the External Affairs Ministry, the sources said.
An Italian probe report claims that three cousins of former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi were among the beneficiaries. However, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi's cousin Sanjeev Tyagi on Saturday rubbished allegations of his involvement in the tainted AgustaWestland chopper deal in an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN. Speaking to Rajdeep Sardesai, Sanjeev, who is mentioned in the Italian probe reports as 'Julie' Tyagi, said that the allegations against him and his cousin SP Tyagi were baseless and had maligned the image of their families.
"I have no links with AgustaWestland. I am not aware of any deal. I did not receive any payment. (Guido Ralph) Haschke is lying. Finnmeccanica is trying to cover up its own bungling. The charges are baseless. It is very easy to tarnish someone's reputation, but can the media pay it back?" he said.
Sanjeev revealed that he had met Haschke in 2001 in connection with a power sector deal and that he had known Carlo Gerosa, another middleman in the chopper deal, since 1995 through a deal related to the infrastructure sector. He also said that he had met Haschke through Gerosa.
The scam had unfolded with the arrest on Tuesday of the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company that is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for helicopters to ferry Indian VVIPs. The Ministry of Defence has decided to put on hold the receipt of the remaining nine of the 12 helicopters for which the Rs 3600 crore deal was struck in 2010.
Giuseppe Orsi, the head of Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, was arrested on Monday in relation to a probe into international corruption. He is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale helicopters produced by Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland.