The Indian defense ministry ( ) has ordered an investigation into Italian news reports that illegal commissions may have been paid to swing a $700 million deal signed two years ago for 12 VVIP helicopters.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony made the announcement shortly after reports in the Italian press pointed to allegations of €51 million ($67.4 million) that were paid byto a Switzerland-based agent to push through the Indian deal.
Thebeat out the S-92 in February 2010 for India’s first purchase of executive transport rotorcraft in more than two decades.
In a prepared statement, the Indian MOD said: “Any such complaint or allegation received will be investigated and the contractual provisions invoked, in case [of] any wrongdoing.”
The first AW101 for India is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi in October. MOD sources reveal that with most of the contract value already paid, a cancellation of the deal is unlikely, though the invocation of penalty clauses could see the forfeiture of bank guarantees and other punitive action if allegations of illegality are proven.
Outside Indian Parliament on April 25, Antony said, “I plan to pursue this very seriously. If there is a whiff of wrongdoing, we will not spare anyone or any action.”
When allegations of possible irregularities first cropped up in February, the defense minister asked the Indian Embassy in Rome for a full report. Later he told the Indian Parliament on March 23 that the investigations under way by Italian authorities did not pertain to the Indian transaction, and the matter was deemed to have been closed. But a month after that, Antony asked for a second report on the same deal.
The MOD said in its statement that “there is no clear indication at this stage whether the India-related deal would be probed on the strength of preliminary investigations.”
issued a statement denying the allegations, saying, “AgustaWestland has not committed any form of irregularity, nor has any type of commission been paid to any type of broker, either during the [military] tender for supply of AW101 helicopters to the defense ministry, or during the [civilian] tender for possible supply of helicopters to the police forces.”
The 12 AW101s are to operate out of the’s Palam air force base in the national capital, along with several other executive transport types, including Mi-17s, Legacy aircraft and Business Jets.