Army to wait further for 197 choppers
New Delhi: The Army will have to wait further for 197 helicopters as the Defence Ministry has extended till June 30 the contractual validity of two bids received for the Rs 5,000 crore tender amid allegations of bribery attempt.
The tender, which was floated in 2008, got marred after allegations that a Brigadier, involved in the acquisition process, had sought kickbacks from Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland to swing the deal in its favour.
The allegations are being probed by CBI.
AgustaWestland could not qualify on technical grounds at the trial stage, leaving European Eurocopter and Russian Kamov in the race for the tender which was already scrapped once in 2007.
The validity of the bids submitted by the two firms has been extended till June 30 this year, sources said here.
As per the earlier timelines, their validity was to expire in December last month.
On January 4, the CBI registered a case against the Brigadier and unknown officers of the Army and Defence Ministry after the agency received a fresh set of documents from Italian police.
Army Aviation is looking at buying 197 light helicopters to replace its ageing Cheetah/Chetak fleet which undertakes reconnaissance and casualty evacuation operations in forward locations and high-altitude areas like Siachen.
The Brigadier`s name and his alleged demand apparently surfaced during investigations by Italian prosecutors in the scam related to VVIP chopper deal involving AgustaWestland which has since been scrapped.
After the allegations came to light, the Defence Ministry put on hold the contract and asked the CBI to probe the case.
In the connected case of bribery charges in the 12 VVIP chopper deal, the Defence Ministry scrapped the deal on January 1 after finding AgustaWestland allegedly involved in breaching the pre-contract integrity pact.
The Defence Ministry is now concentrating on "encashing" the bank guarantees provided by AgustaWestland in the deal, which total up to around 270 million euros.
The ministry is also considering blacklisting of the Anglo-Italian group and has said that it will consult the Law Ministry and the CBI before taking any final decision on the issue.
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