London: The UK on Thursday defended Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland, saying time should have been given to establish the veracity of the bribery allegations before any action is taken, a day after India scrapped the Rs 3,600-crore deal for supply of VVIP choppers.
"In my view it would have been preferable to give time to establish the veracity of the allegations which have been made before taking any action.
AgustaWestland has over many years demonstrated its resilience, based on the outstanding quality of the helicopters which it makes," UK Education Minister David Laws, an MP for Yeovil, said. The firm is based in Yeovil in Somerest.
Laws said he expects the company to go on selling its products all over the world and to show that this "setback can be overcome".
The Indian government had announced the termination of the order "with immediate effect" yesterday over allegations the company paid bribes to win the deal.
The company, however, said it has not received "any official notification of such a cancellation from the Indian Ministry of Defence".
"The company is therefore unable to comment beyond reiterating the denial of allegations of wrongdoing," said a spokesperson for AugustaWestland.
The company is expected to pursue a legal battle in relation to?the agreement for the supply of 12 three-engine luxury AW-101 helicopters to the Indian Defence Ministry signed in February 2010.
India had suspended payments in February 2012 after allegations of bribery involving parent Italian firm Finmeccanica had emerged.
The termination of the contract is likely to cast a shadow on India-UK ties. British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to India last February had publicly backed the helicopter firm amid the bribery allegations against it.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the British government`s exports department, had viewed the deal as a major boost for its plans to develop the country into a centre for high-value manufacturing.
UKTI endorsed the credentials of AugustaWestland, while distancing the UK government from the ongoing dispute.
"This is a matter for the company and the Indian government. AugustaWestland produce world class helicopters for both the UK Armed Forces and export markets, including a recent 1-billion pound contract to supply 16 helicopters plus support and training to the Norwegian government," a UKTI spokesperson said.