NEW DELHI — is still in contention for two helicopter contracts in India, despite the bribery scandal surrounding its sale of helicopters to the .
The Anglo-Italian defense firm is bidding for a 56 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) contract and to supply 14 twin-engine helicopters to the Indian coast guard.
Defense Minister A.K. Antony confirms the company is still in the running for both programs. “Since no decision to debar the company from participation in the procurement process has so far been taken, the bids are under process,” Antony says.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating 13 people it suspects are involved in bribery surrounding the purchase of the VIP transport helicopters from thesubsidiary. India has suspended all payments and has threatened to cancel the purchase of the AW101 helos altogether if the charges of bribery to middlemen in India and abroad are proven.
The NUH request for proposals (RFP) was issued in August 2012, before CBI’s inquiry into the VIP helicopter case. The RFP for the Indian coast guard helicopters was issued in November 2012. Two companies have bid for NUH, and three for the coast guard program.
Meanwhile, AgustaWestland has formally requested the Indian defense ministry have bilateral discussions with the company on the VIP program, in response to Indian government maneuvering to cancel the deal.
The Indian government had ordered the AW101s as part of a €560 million ($754 million) contract. The aircraft were to be used by the IAF Air Headquarters Communication Squadron for the VIP/head-of-state mission, replacing a small fleet of specially modifiedMi-8s.
India has already received three of the helicopters; the remaining nine are due to be delivered by this year.
According to a defense ministry official, 70% of the approximately $700 million due has been put on hold until the federal investigation report is final. But an AgustaWestland official says, “the deal is still active, as we haven’t received any communication from the Indian government regarding the cancelation of the contract.”
Finmeccanica denies all wrongdoing, and investigations by both Italian and Indian authorities are continuing. The CBI’s probe should be completed in the coming months.
The move follows the Feb. 12 arrest in Italy of Finmeccanica Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi by investigators looking into whether AgustaWestland paid kickbacks worth around €50 million ($67 million) to secure the sale when Orsi was in charge of the company.