New Delhi: Staring at the prospect of being blacklisted in the wake of the chopper scam, Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland has approached the Finance Ministry for release of nearly Rs 2,400 crore which has been put on hold by the Defence Ministry pending inquiry into the case.
The company has written to Finance Minister P Chidambaram, arguing that there were certain "contractual difficulties" with the Defence Ministry and holding back its payments amounted to "breach of contract".
The firm has said that as per the principles of justice under Indian and Italian laws, till proven guilty, "no individual or organisation" can be held guilty and investigations were still on in both the countries in the case.
"I am writing to you to provide the information in respect of contractual difficulties that have arisen between Defence Ministry and AgustaWestland International...
"Neither the contract nor the associated integrity pact confers any rights on the Defence Ministry to unilaterally suspend the contract or withhold payments that become due under its terms. We regret that such actions appear to amount to a breach of the contract," the firm said.
The letter has been written by AgustaWestland Managing Director Geoff Hoon.
India has paid around 30 per cent in the Rs 3,600 crore deal and withheld the remaining after the Italian investigators arrested former CEOs of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland for allegedly paying Rs 362 crore kickbacks.
The CBI has registered a case into the kickback allegations and has questioned former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi and his three cousins in the case.
In the letter, the firm said it has been trying to get an audience from the Defence Ministry but it has not responded to its requests so far.
"AgustaWestland has complied with all our obligations in relation the delivered helicopters, we have not received payment referred to above. We wrote to Defence Ministry on February 13 to request it to release payments for the helicopters delivered. We regret that the Defence Ministry is yet to respond to this communication," the firm said.
The firm also said the discussions would allow "a proper consideration of all the issue without recourse to the courts, a process that will inevitably take very many years to resolve".
India put on hold the payment of Rs 2,400 crore along with the delivery of the nine helicopters from the company, pending the outcome of the CBI probe.
India has already received three of the 12 helicopters for which the deal was struck in 2010 for Rs 3,600 crore. Three of the remaining helicopters were to arrive here next month, while the remaining six were to be delivered later this year.
The first batch of three AW-101 choppers arrived last month at the Palam air base and the next batch of three more choppers was scheduled to arrive by March.
India was to pay the rest of the amount at the time of deliveries of the respective batches.
After the scam broke out, Defence Minister AK Antony had said that India can "get its money back even at this stage".
He had said "If the Indian government paid any amount of the money, as per the provisions of the integrity pact, we can get back the entire money we paid to the vendor."