Congress slams Centre’s ‘duplicity’ in lifting ban on AugustaWestland

A day after news reports about the government lifting the ban on the Italian Defence company involved in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, the Congress attacked the Narendra Modi government, calling it out for its duplicity.

The procurement ban was lifted just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Italian counterpart Mario Draghi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome. The Congress said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government had lost all the cases against AgustaWestland in international courts and didn’t even file appeals. The party asked if the “fake bogey of corruption” raised just before the 2019 elections against the UPA government is being given a quiet burial.

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Party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh pointed out that Mr. Modi had called Finmecanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, now known as Leonardo SpA, as “corrupt” but was now ready to trade with the same firm. On July 22, 2014, the company was removed from the blacklist and now the government has lifted the procurement ban from it.

The Congress-led UPA government, Mr. Vallabh said, had decisively ordered investigations when media reports suggested corruption in the case.

In February 2010, a global tender was issued to purchase 12 helicopters. This was allotted to AgustaWestland for ₹3,546 crore. In February 2013, after allegations of corruption surfaced, the CBI started investigating the deal. And finally, in January 2014, the UPA government cancelled the contract to purchase 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland. Till then, a payment of ₹1,620 crore had been made to Agusta and three helicopters had been delivered. On cancelling the contract, UPA-Congress government had encashed the bank guarantees worth ₹240 crore from of AgustaWestland deposited with Indian banks.

“The UPA-Congress government had also filed a case against AgustaWestland in Milan, Italy. On 23.5.2014, UPA-Congress government won the case for encashment of international guarantees of AgustaWestland to recover €228 million. The Congress-UPA government recovered a total of ₹2,068 crore from Agusta Westland against the payment of ₹1,620 crore,” Mr Vallabh said.

In addition, UPA-Congress government confiscated three AgustaWestland helicopters costing close to ₹886.50 crore. It was the UPA government, he said, that initiated the process of blacklisting the AgustaWestland in February 2013.

“The BJP government soon after coming to power, in July 2014, took an opinion from its Attorney General to undo the banning of AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmecanica,” Mr. Vallabh said.

The Congress questioned the Modi government’s “secret deal” with the Italian firm.

Mr. Vallabh asked, “Is it now OK to deal with a company that Modi ji & his Govt called “corrupt, bribe-giver, bogus?”

The party also demanded to know as to what will happen to the investigation initiated by the Congress government.

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