Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said there was “101 percent” political interference in the AgustaWestland helicopters deal, and added that the then defence minister AK Antony “did not have the guts” to order a CBI probe in time.
In an interview to IANS, the Defence Minister also said that he never named Congress president Sonia Gandhi as an accused as there is no evidence so far.
I never named Sonia Gandhi. I never named her in the debate. I said big leaders like Sonia Gandhi are named in the judgment. But I did not name her as an accused of corruption...Investigation has to reveal that; how do you expect the ministry of defence to find out. I do not have the resources to find that out... Police should find that out; it’s the CBI’s job, not mine.
No Evidence Against Anybody But Certainty of Political Interference
The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate are probing the case of corruption in the deal to buy VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland.
“This is my stand throughout my life. Unless there is evidence against a person, it is not right to name a person... I followed it as chief minister of Goa also,” the minister said.
He, however, said that there was “political interference” in the chopper deal.
He (AK Antony) was fearing that some day the whole issue will come out. It was immediately given to CBI when (former CEO of AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica, Guiseppe) Orsi was arrested. It should have been given to CBI earlier but he did not have the guts
Taking a jibe at the former Defence Minister, Parrikar added: “He must not have gotten a phone call to do so in national interest.”
Previous Govt Followed Procedures to Benefit AgustaWestland
In April this year, Orsi and AgustaWestland ex-head Bruno Spagnolini were jailed on corruption charges. The Italian court judgment has mentioned the names of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leader Ahmad Patel, and former Indian Air Force chief Air Marshal SP Tyagi, though it does not indict any of them.
Asked to comment on the claims by officials under the previous government that all procedures had been followed, the minister responded in affirmative, but added that those procedures were used to benefit one vendor–AgustaWestland.
The process is fine, I will put it like this -- All things have been done within the powers granted, but done in a manner where they have favoured one particular vendor. The primary indicators of corruption are proved. The exemption is not justifiable, so it is a fraud. Powers exist but powers have to be used with proper justification.
Parrikar added that while the defence ministry is not monitoring the CBI probe in the case, it would ask about the progress.
AgustaWestland was alleged to have paid Rs 375 crore in bribes to secure the Rs 3,700-crore contract to supply 12 AW101 helicopters to the Indian Air Force.
The choppers were to fly VVIPs like the president, prime minister and others.
(This article has been published in arrangement with IANS)
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