New Delhi – India’s agreement to purchase 12 helicopters from Italy is likely to be investigated in India after reports from Rome suggested irregularities in the contract. The Italian defense firm, however, has denied the allegations.
Reports in Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica suggest prosecutors have started checking into allegations of corruption against state-backed major defense contractor’s dealings, including the 35.46 billion rupee ($720 million) contract with India.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony, concerned over the reports, has ordered an inquiry into whether corruption was involved in the procurement of the helicopters from Finmeccanica subsidiary, a senior defense ministry official said over the weekend.
India signed the contract with AgustaWestland in February 2010 to buy 12helicopters, mainly to be used by the president, prime minister and other top government functionaries. The AW101 was selected over ’s S-92 Super Hawk.
Finmeccanica on Feb. 27 declared that “AgustaWestland is not involved in any irregularity concerning the supply of helicopters in India.
“No notice related to the purported investigations has been served to companies and officers of the Finmeccanica Group neither in Italy, nor in India,” the company says in a statement.
La Repubblica reported a senior company official had told prosecutors that slush funds were generated after a sudden escalation of price by €10 million ($13.4 million) in 2010.
But Finmeccanica further declared that “the companies of the group have adopted organizations and ethical codes in line with regulations and best practices, aimed at preventing and banning any conducts not responding to proper management standards.”
The AW101s are supposed to replace India’s aging fleet of Russian-made Mi-8 helicopters. Delivery of the first batch is due this year and the entire fleet by 2013.
Another subsidiary of Finmeccanica, Selex Sistemi Integrati, recently inked a €10 million contract with India’s state-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd. for the delivery of the air surveillance naval radar RAN 40L and IFF radar for the country’s indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.