CNN-IBN's senior editor Jyoti Kamal joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the AgustaWestland chopper deal bribery scandal.
Q. Hi Jyoti Kamal, Good afternoon, why Middle men is involved in defence deal. Indian Govt is against it, but still they allowed. Is there any vested interest. Asked by: Jagannath Pujar
A. The issue earlier was contact between civilian manufacturers and military personnel who want the equipment. When India got its military hardware from USSR, it was govt to govt dealing. As the defence sector opened up more and more manufacturers worldwide wanted to influence the purchase process and get their items selected. then began the concept of middlemen who would be close to the military top brass and also the government high ups and facilitate the purchase of equipment. India has now banned it, but it is difficult to totally stop the contact between military officers, civilian bureaucrats, middlemen and arms manufacturers.
Q. Is there any possibility of arrest of Indian ministers in this case and to be extradited to Italy people like Pranab are in positions of immunity? Asked by: Ravi
A. The question of arrests would arise only if investigations by Indian agencies also point to wrongdoing. the interesting thing is that Italians were the beneficiaries - they were selling high end helicopters and getting money into Italy, but they have initiated a probe, probably for political reasons, but they have. India has lost money in the deal due to the bribing as ultimately it is the tax payers money that has gone out and entered as bribe, but we still see immense reluctance on the part of the Indian govt to probe this.
Q. Do you really think UPA-II is serious enough to reach to the actual bribe story and its different characters? Asked by: Manoj
A. The govt has a knee jerk reaction of denial to everything that sounds like a scam...already much time has been wasted in the probe and adequate opportunity has been given for a cover up. Even in Chandigarh, the CBI is yet to analyse documents of the main companies involved - ids and aeromatrix.
Q. In a country where you need to pay to get a driving license, ration card or get job from govt department....is it not too much to think that no sum would have been paid in such a dealing. Money is paid on getting petty municipal contracts, and then too the work done is shoddy, here at least technically air force has certified they are good. Asked by: S ESHWAR
A. No doubt the helicopters might be good, they had the big advantage of having three engines which would provide back up power to the rotors if any one engine failed and so were good for VIP duties. However, the question is about tax payer money first going out in foreign exchange as payment for the helicopters and then coming back into India disguised as software exports and being paid to middlemen who allegedly swung the deal. It is straight out cheating the people of the nation and literally looting them.
Q. Is it possible to assume that Air chief Tyagi was only involved in scam while no Congress person was involved as purchasing involved some important members of cabinet? Asked by: Hitesh
A. As of now the air chief's culpability or involvement too is not clearly established. However, the circumstantial evidence and the Italian probe point to his involvement. He has denied it outright. All these things could be tested and checked quickly if the investigation agencies in India are sharp and interested in doing. so far we have no reports of even preliminary findings of the probe other than the statement that a team would be sent to Italy. names of many congress politicians have come up, but unless there is solid evidence it wouldn't stand the test of a court of law and the delay by our investigation agencies is helping the cause of the guilty.
Q. Is it necessary to have middleman in defence deals as govt is trying to convey so why have CEOs of these big firms have been arrested in Italy. Asked by: Manush
A. Defence procurement is the biggest money making machine not just in India but world wide. Thousands of crores of rupees worth of equipment is bought. military machines are at a premium because their manufacture is tightly controlled. when so much money is riding the game, it is obvious that there would be people pushing their products. middlemen are very well connected sophisticated social circuit types who work all their connections to find weak and sweet spots and then push deals through. it is illegal but it happens all the time. as they say no one is a thief till they are caught.
Q. Do you feel that Italy court will share their information with CBI as it seems they will try to restrict it to their own country and they also have different laws? Asked by: Hitesh
A. They have initially said they will not share the information. but are our investigation agencies waiting to be fed with a spoon. already the entire charge sheet and major bits of evidence are in the public domain. what is stopping the CBI from checking if software exports actually took place from Chandigarh in return of which money came in from Tunisia and Mauritius? what is topping them from finding out what happened to the money once it entered the accounts of ids and aeromatrix?
Q. In case if there were no arrests in Italy than the entire case would not have come to light in India and it also means many such cases involving Govt ministers are being hidden under the carpet? Asked by: Manav
A. You are right. There are major loopholes in the defence procurement of these helicopters. the first installment of bribe money is alleged to have come in in 2007. Five years have passed, the Italians started probing two years back and the Indians who are the real losers in this whole deal have really done nothing save try and cover up the entire case.
Q. Do you feel that cancellation of deal is an face saving exercise by govt or it is sincere in reaching to the bottom of it? Asked by: Manav
A. It is a knee jerk reaction and aimed at just appearing to be doing something serious. Cancelling deals is bad for India's business image, deals should not be cancelled. In the first place the process should have been cleaner and scrutinised better. By cancelling a deal now, India would be sending out a negative business signal. But the most curious thing is India is ready to scrap the deal in a way agreeing with the Italian report, but is not willing to take any action against those who were involved in the bribing saying nothing wrong has been done. It is a curious contradiction.
Q. Govt which is these days celebrating crimes of others like Kasab and Veerapan by hanging them is quite arrogant about their own crimes as it defends them and some of them like Kalmadi after passing few days of holidays in jail are back left scot-free Asked by: Arvind
A. A former judge remarked that in India it is only the poor people who get hanged. take a look at all the hangings that have happened in India. which rich or influential person has ever been hanged even for major crimes? it is always the poor. as a nation and a democracy we have to think again, if we have the right model at hand or do we need to find a better way. for now, there seems to be none. the only thing that can work is a more aware and intelligent population and that seems to be slowly gaining traction.
Q. Do you see BJP not allowing the Parliament to run in case Congress does not agree for an SIT or a court monitored probe? Asked by: Ankit
A. Of course. for the every opportunity is one to be used well. and with congress connections being alleged this is definitely a big issue to focus on. the congress would do the same. the budget session is going to be a stormy one. India's bad luck that just when the union budget is to be debated, it is likely to be bogged down by this helicopter deal. we the people would once again be the losers.
Q. Does such type of scams paint grim picture of India's liberalization and private sector in Defence as many corporates want private sector to play important role in defence but with these brokers, defence purchases can be profitable business for crook politicians. Asked by: Manav
A. I wish India's defence sector was worthy enough to replace the foreign manufacturers. while china believes in making its own weaponry, India believes in taking the easy way out and buying it from the world beyond and in the process getting kickbacks as bribe money. if we had Indian manufacturers fulfilling all our needs, in a worse case scenario all kickbacks would still stay within the country as the manufacturers are our own and not foreigners. our defence manufacturing capabilities are shameful. we are a consuming nation, not a manufacturing and producing nation. consumers can never really be prosperous and powerful
Q. Hi Jyoti, Do you think scams in defence sector brings down morale of the force on ground especially when they do not receive necessary equipment's used in tough terrain & better perks & facilities? Asked by: Jatin Mehta
A. It is a matter of trust. a soldiers weapons are his biggest friend. if he is not sure that the weapon that he has is the best or is the outcome of scam then obviously his morale suffers. The BJP is now planning a feb 20 meeting to finalise how they take on the congress in the budget session. CBI is sending a probe team to Italy. lets see if any headway is made even as delays have already caused much evidence to be destroyed.
Q. Television channels seem to have done a wonderful job in getting information from Italy in few days than professional investigative agency like CBI so can an honest inquiry be expected from Govt. Asked by: Manush
A. That's right. in most developed nations, the media follows the investigations done by the investigating agencies, in India it is the other way round. media is gathering more bits and pieces and putting two and two together while the investigating agencies are just warming up to the fact that there has even been a scam. look, why should they bother? investigating agencies have nothing to fear or lose. they have no supervision over them that wants them to do their job, if anything there is negative influence. it is only an alert citizenry through media and new technology outlets that can bring the truth out.
Q. In case India need to extradite an Italian or British national what do the treaties between the countries say? Asked by: yogendhar
A. In India the extradition of a fugitive from India to a foreign country or vice-versa is governed by the provisions of Indian Extradition Act, 1962. India has such a treat with the UK and an extradition arrangement with Italy. however to initiate it, serious and credible proof has to be submitted for why the extradition is being sought. and if you have a shoddy investigating agency, obviously that proof wont be satisfactory and the reciprocating country will not allow the extradition.
Q. Hi Jyoti Kamal, Good Afternoon, My First Question is to you is this second Bofors scam that hit India. Second question is Why Indian Govt is not sending Indian Investigation Agencies to attend the Trail in Italy. Asked by: Jagannath Pujar
A. The CBI is now sending a team. AgustaWestland has been issued a show cause notice giving it seven days to defend itself. yes it is definitely another defence scam, but definitely not the second. the figure should be higher if you count in many other deals that have not worked or have been found suspicious. bofors, barak, hdw, denel...there have been a spate of scams. CBI has not cracked a single scam in the last 30 years.
Q. We have seen that many retired service chiefs and high ranked officers are hired as consultants and this makes it easier to influence a deal. What do you think is the best way out of this situation? Asked by: yogendhar
A. Defence officers should be banned from representing foreign weapons manufacturers because the army is a very tightly pyramidal and hierarchical structure where senior officers are difficult to say no to even after they retire. and this is precisely what the defence manufacturers and arms dealers want. officers who wield influence and clout even after they retire. however, India's military intelligence is supposed to keep a check on these activities, but there inefficiency is well known.
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