India scraps $600 million VVIP chopper deal with Anglo-Italian firm “AgustaWestland”

New Delhi, Jan 1, IRNA -- India Wednesday cancelled its around 600 million dollar deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for supply of 12 VVIP choppers to the Air Force in view of charges that kickbacks to the tune of around 60 million dollars were paid in it.

The decision to scrap the 2010 deal was taken more than a year after reports surfaced that two top officials of the company had allegedly paid bribes to bag the contract. Former IAF chief S P Tyagi is one of the accused in the case, which is being probed by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The cancellation came after a meeting between Defence Minister A K Antony with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here earlier in the day, pti quoted Defence Ministry sources as saying. The deal was for supply of 12 helicopters for VVIPs and out of these AgustaWestland has already delivered three.

India has now decided to go in for arbitration with the Anglo-Italian firm, Defence Ministry sources said here.

The government had frozen the contract in February last year for supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF after allegations that Rs 360 crore were paid as bribe. Two top officials of the company were accused and arrested in Italy in this regard.

India had already made 30 per cent payment and further payment was in the pipeline for three more helicopters when the freeze was ordered.

The Defence Ministry had issued two show cause notices to the Anglo-Italian firm during the last ten months. The firm denied any wrongdoings in its response but the government rejected their contention.

The Defence Ministry had also got access to the documents seized from the alleged middlemen in Italy and they are also expected to have formed the basis for the scrapping of the contract, sources said.

Soon after the Defence Ministry ordered a freeze on the deal months ago, the company had alleged that the India was acting "unilaterally" and invoked arbitration proceedings against it. The Defence Ministry had then refused to be drawn into a legal battle with the company.

The CAG had also highlighted loopholes in the deal.

Soon after the arrest of the firm's former CEO, Guiseppe Orsi, in Italy in connection with the case, Antony had suspended the payments to be made to it along with the delivery it was due to make to IAF of the remaining nine choppers.