New Delhi: Responding in the Rajya Sabha on the matter of VVIP chopper deal on Wednesday, Defence Minister AK Antony said that it was a matter of shame for everybody whenever a scam was reported.
“I as Defence Minister feel ashamed of the scam,” AK Antony told the House.
Assuring the members that every penny would be accounted for Antony said, “We will go to the root of the matter." “Allegations of kickbacks are a serious offence”, he added.
“Govt is committed to bring the guilty to book and will blacklist any company who are found of wrongdoing”, Antony further said, adding “We do not believe in covering scam. Government of India ordered an inquiry as soon as the matter came to light.”
On the matter of a JPC in the chopper deal, Defence Minister said that the government was still open on the issue.
“Every complaint has been dealt with the Defence Ministry. My ministry has shown no mercy to corrupt companies,” he said. “Six powerful companies were blacklisted by my ministry,” he further revealed.
"One of the firms has branches in 100 countries. We have shown no mercy and cancelled their contracts and blacklisted them for ten years."
He also said, “Eleven persons and four companies are being probed by the CBI.”
Revealing that he had "thought" of quitting after the scam broke, he promised the strongest action against the company if evidence points to wrongdoing.
Asking the Opposition not to politicise the issue, he said "We thought to satisfy you and respect your sentiments, so we thought we can have JPC."
Hitting out at the Opposition members for seemingly "enjoying the scam", the senior Congress leader said, "A scam is not to be enjoyed."
He said the Italian court hearing the case has refused to share details, saying the proceedings are at preliminary stage.
"At the preliminary stage of investigations, only the arrested persons and their lawyers can have access to documents," he said, adding "If they cite preliminary stage of inquiry, what can we do?"
After the secrecy clause is over, the Italian authorities will share information, he said.
Narrating the sequence of events, the minister said the process of acquiring the choppers was started 11 years ago in 1999 when an RFP was issued for eight VVIP choppers in which only one firm Eurocopter qualified.
He said after the then principal secretary to the Prime Minister wrote in 2003 that requirements should be changed for the chopper to fly at 4,500 metre, a fresh tender was issued.
The CBI has on Monday registered a preliminary enquiry against 11 people, including former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, and four companies in the Rs 3,600-crore deal for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland.
The firms named are Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd. (India) and Aeromatrix India.
Finmeccanica CEO Giueseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested by Italian investigators in connection with the alleged scam in which Rs 362 crore have been allegedly paid as kickbacks.
With PTI inputs