April 22, 2021
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Great farce
Defence Ministry bans Finmeccanica at Defexpo but offers deal to WASS

It appears India will never be able to recover the bank guarantee money deposited by Agusta in Italian bank in the VVIP chopper scam as the Italian court has intervened in the matter citing contempt issues which the Government of India has created in the way of non cooperation.

In fact, more time the VVIP case investigation takes, it is better for Congress Party to fool the people and confuse the investigating agencies here, to find an escape corridor against the backdrop of a looming general election.   

The way the UPA government is handling the multi-million dollar Agusta chopper scam, it is not only funny but a national shame how lies are being fed to general public with impunity.

Defence Minister A K Antony touched headlines this month not for his so called ‘honesty’ saga but by banning Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica from participating at state controlled Defexpo, yet at the same breathe he had cleared the proposal of acquiring torpedo from WASS-a subsidiary of the same Group.

It was a mere chance that the Finance Ministry put a stop to MoD’s recommendation for buying torpedo from WASS citing lack of financial allocation for this fiscal year and loopholes in the deal which can be complicated in future as proper procedures were not followed.

After ousting Atlas of Germany under false charges, the deal to acquire torpedo from WASS had become an issue of single vendor-a situation pretty similar to VVIP chopper scam in which Indian MoD officials, Congress Party politicians and the Family had received bribes and cheated the Government of India through a well carved out conspiracy strategy.

Even the names of series of high profile Congress Party leaders are surfacing every day with slight revelations from the accused when they face Italian investigators. This includes a ‘policewala’ who served this country as its worst National Security Advisor and now appointed as governor because of his loyalty to the dynasty.

But Antony has spread lies in a systematic manner and willfully given false information to general public about the scam that happened at the best of his political masters who have appointed him as the Defence Minister of India.

Antony and his then Defence Secretary S K Sharma (now CAG of India) had assured that there is nothing in the VVIP deal. When Italian investigators arrested Finmeccanica officials, the MoD reluctantly acted in a half hearted way. So far, India has failed to cooperate with Italian authorities with the fear that more skeletons might fall.   

Now, the Italians are not ready to return the bank guarantee money deposited in Italian bank to Indian MoD as the Italian court feels India is not cooperating in the investigation process. The court wants to summon couple of high profile people from India to depose before it for verification of facts.

This has led to the anger of the court which has directed the bank not to take orders from Indian authorities who are trying to recover the money by dissolving the bank guarantee which Finmeccanica had offered at the time of the deal.

Interestingly, while all other defence companies have given bank guarantee through State Bank of India, the Italian conglomerate was allowed to give only first bank guarantee through SBI (a small amount) but all remaining money (more than Rs 2,000 crore) through Italian banks.

This was sincerely accepted by the then Principal Comptroller of Defence Accounts after Defence Minister’s personal staff allegedly threatened him with dire consequences. In the whole deal there was no negotiation of price as it was purposefully made a single vendor after throwing out Sikorsky.  

The payment for VVIP choppers were also cleared in record time within three days by MoD at the behest of A K Antony whereas the stipulated time frame is of 45 days. Normally, in all defence deals, it takes more than 45 days as either there could be some technical problem or by delaying one can make the effort to secure a bribe, thus delay is inevitable.

But Finmeccanica was a different case where everyone was in a hurry. Now, with the court battles engulfing the whole deal and Indian MoD has canceled the deal, more complications are waiting. The three choppers Agusta has so far handed over to India may suffer the same fate like Westland helicopters in the 80s.