New Delhi: The Congress on Monday accused the Centre of shielding AgustaWestland, and asked if has a “secret deal” with the European defence company.
Addressing a press conference, party spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh said the Congress-led UPA government had recovered more than Rs 2,200 crore from the helicopter company but “the Narendra Modi-led government is unequivocally guilty of shielding, protecting, and promoting AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmecanica. Their nefarious design is simple ‘Operation Cover-up to save Modi’,” he added.
The Modi government lifted the procurement ban on Leonardo SpA, earlier known as Finmeccanica (parent company of AgustaWestland), and later mysteriously withdrew its ‘blacklisting,’ he alleged.
Modi and his government sanctioned investment by the ‘blacklisted’ AgustaWestland through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), he added.
“The Centre not only included the AgustaWestland in its ‘Make In India’ initiative but also allowed it to bid for the purchase of 100 helicopters for the Indian Navy. The government lost all the cases against the company in the International courts but didn’t even file appeals,” he added.
The Congress leader said that Modi called Finmeccanica “corrupt” but mysteriously withdrew its blacklisting status on July 22, 2014 and now, lifted the procurement ban on it.
Highlighting the actions the UPA government had taken against the company, he said in February, 2010, under a global tender, a contract to purchase 12 helicopters was allotted to the Italian company for Rs 3,546 crore. But on February 12, 2013, pursuant to media reports, the then Congress-UPA government ordered an enquiry, lodged an FIR, and handed the case to the CBI.
On February 27, 2013, the UPA government proposed setting up a JPC but failed to get the BJP’s support. On January 1, 2014 the government cancelled the contract to purchase 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland. Till then, a payment of Rs 1,620 crore had been made to the company and three helicopters delivered to India.
On cancelling the contract, the UPA government encashed the bank guarantees worth Rs 240 crore deposited with the Indian banks.
The then government government had also filed a case against the company in Italy’s Milan. On May 23, 2014, the UPA government won the case for encashment of International guarantees of the defence company to recover 2,28,00,00,00 euros.
He said that the government recovered a total of Rs 2,068 crore from the company against the payment of Rs 1,620 crore. In addition, it also confiscated three helicopters. Contracted value of these three helicopters comes to Rs 886.50 crore. Thus, the UPA recovered a total of Rs 2,954 crore.
The Congress spokesperson said the UPA also initiated the process of the blacklisting AgustaWestland-Finmecanica on February 15, 2013 and banned it.
But the Modi government in July 2014, took an opinion from its Attorney General to undo the banning. Based on it, the Defence Ministry issued an order dated July 22, 2014 withdrawing the blacklisting.