India raises more concern over Agusta deal

Nov. 1, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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NEW DELHI, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The Indian Ministry of Defense is pressing the Italian government for information concerning possible irregularities in the department's purchase of 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.

The request follows requests for information about the ongoing purchase of some 197 light utility helicopters in which an Indian brigadier is suspected of offering to help AgustaWestland seal.

"The Italian government has been requested to provide details of the existence, if any, of any middlemen or any individual or Indian entity in the (AW101) contract," a statement by the Indian Ministry of Defense published on the government's public information website said.

"The Ministry of Defense has asked the Italian government and concerned agencies to provide the name and relevant documents relating to the alleged involvement of a brigadier in the ongoing process for the acquisition of 197 light utility helicopters for the Indian army."

AgustaWestland wasn't shortlisted for the light utility helicopter contract, which now is between Eurocopter and Kamov and for fewer aircraft, around 130.

India and AgustaWestland announced the deal for 12 AW101 helicopters in 2010, saying eight of the aircraft would be used for high-security VIP transport.

The AW101 aircraft are being supplied by AgustaWestland's division in the United Kingdom at a cost of around $724 million. The helicopters will replace Mil Mi-8 helicopters that are near the end of their technical life.

The AW101 deal was signed after a global tendering process involving multiple vendors, information given by Defense Minister A.K. Antony in a written reply to questions in Parliament indicated.

Antony said in April that the contract for the 12 AW101 helicopters contains standard provisions against use of undue influence and employment of agents and payment of agency commission. A pre-contract integrity pact also was signed between AgustaWestland and the Ministry of Defense.

AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, said the AW101 deal includes five years of logistics support and initial training for aircrew and technicians.

The Indian order pushes the number of AW101 helicopters sold around the world to more than 180, to countries including Italy, Japan, Denmark, Canada, Portugal and the United Kingdom, the AgustaWestland statement said.

The Defense Ministry wrote to the Italian government in February and April when the first reports came out about alleged malpractices, the Daily Pioneer newspaper said.

But last week Italian media reports said Italian investigators found a letter by alleged middleman Guido Haschke stating that an Indian brigadier, in charge of the flight trials, had asked for money in January 2010, the Daily Pioneer said.

The brigadier -- not named -- is with the Army Aviation Corps and is posted in Chennai.

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