New Delhi: The government`s move to blacklist Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland in the wake of bribery allegations in VVIP helicopter deal is set to be delayed with Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran advising against any immediate action.
The issue has now been referred to CBI which is carrying out legal proceedings against the company, which is accused of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 360 crore in the Rs 3600 crore deal.
"The Law officer has asked us to wait before going ahead with the blacklisting of the Anglo-Italian firm. We have now referred the issue to CBI, which is carrying out legal proceedings against the firm in India," highly-placed Defence Ministry sources told.
The Defence Ministry had sought the opinion on blacklisting soon after it cancelled the contract to supply choppers on January 1 after agreeing to get into arbitration with the Anglo-Italian firm.
The arbitration process is yet to start between the two sides as they have not agreed upon the third member of the arbitration panel in which AgustaWestland has nominated former Supreme Court judge Justice (retd) BN Srikrishna and the Defence Ministry has nominated former Justice Jeevan Reddy.
The Anglo-Italian firm is learnt to have approached the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris over the issue of appointment of third member of the arbitration panel, sources said.
AgustaWestland has denied any wrongdoing on its part in the case relating to alleged kickbacks in the deal.
The deal was for procuring 12 helicopters and three of them had already been delivered when the scam broke out in February last year.
After scrapping the deal, India encashed a guarantee of over Rs 250 crore deposited by AgustaWestland in a bank in Delhi.
Earlier last month, former Secretary (Security) at the Cabinet Secretariat Sudhir Kumar, former Inspector General SPG N Ramachandran, who retired as DGP Meghalaya, and former Special Secretary (Acquisition) in the Defence Ministry H C Gupta were examined by the agency as part of its probe.
Kumar was Secretary (Security) during 2004-05. The Secretary (Security) looks after the administration of SPG.
CBI has registered a case against former IAF Chief S P Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case of alleged bribery.
The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he had reduced the height of the VVIP helicopters so that AgustaWestland is included in the bids.
However, the decision was taken in consultation with the Special Protection Group and other top officials of the Prime Minister`s Office but the agency did not get permission to question either Narayanan or Wanchoo who are Governors of West Bengal and Goa respectively.
It alleged reduction of service ceiling--maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally--allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to get into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.