India’s defense minister says that changes to the VIP helicopter RFP were approved and recommended, thereby undermining allegations that bribes were paid to secure them. (AW photo)
August 27, 2013 defense-aerospace.com
(Source: Press Information Bureau India; issued August 26, 2013)
VIP Helicopter Deal
After issuance of Request For Proposal (RFP) for the procurement of 12 VVIP/VIP helicopters, certain changes, with the approval of the competent authority in terms of Defence Procurement Procedure-2006, have been made in technical requirements on the basis of the recommendation of the stakeholders to meet the requisite standards of operational safety and security.
The contract for procurement of 12 VVIP / VIP helicopters was signed with M/s Agusta Westland, U.K. on 8th February 2010. Three helicopters have so far been supplied by the vendor.
In view of allegations of irregularities in this procurement, Ministry of Defence has entrusted enquiry into the matter to CBI. The CBI, on conclusion of preliminary enquiry, registered a regular case on 12th March 2013 against 13 persons and 6 firms.
The CBI investigation is in progress. Further operation of the Contract has been put on hold.
This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Dr. M. Thambidurai and others in Lok Sabha today.
(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a very surprising statement.
By saying that changes made to the helicopter RFP after it was issued were recommended by “stakeholders,” and that they also were approved by the “competent authority,” Antony clearly undermines the credibility of ongoing investigations by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation and by Italian magistrates.
These investigations have focused on persistent but as yet unproven allegations that changes to the RFP requirements were made surreptitiously and illegally to favour Agusta Westland’s AW101, in exchange for bribes paid to Indian officials.
No evidence has yet been discovered to bolster these allegations. Two former Indian air force commanders have been investigated and one charged in India. The CEOs of AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica, its corporate parent, were jailed in Italy and are now under trial.
If the Indian customer, in the person of Defense Minister A.K. Antony, now says the changes to the RFP were both approved and required for safety reasons, there is no longer any plausible reason for bribes to have been paid.
Yet, as Antony notes, the CBI’s preliminary enquiry did lead to its registering “a regular case on 12th March 2013 against 13 persons and 6 firms.”
Again, this is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the changes to the RFP were both approved and required on safety grounds.
Clearly, more explanations are needed. Until they are forthcoming, it probably is worth noting that the one person who comes across as a prudent steward of public funds and a guardian of public propriety in the above statement is, perhaps not coincidentally, Antony himself.)