Army for probe into charges of Brigadier seeking bribe from AgustaWestland



New Delhi: The Army has asked the Defence Ministry to investigate the charges that a Brigadier had sought a bribe of Rs 25 crore from AgustaWestland to help it bag the deal for supplying 197 light choppers before taking any decision on the tender.

The allegations against the Brigadier surfaced during investigations into the VVIP chopper deal about the alleged involvement of Finmeccanica in paying kickbacks to secure the Indian contract for 12 VVIP choppers.

"The Army Headquarters has asked us to investigate the matter before taking any decision on the future of the deal, in which only two firms European Eurocopter and Russian Kamov are left in the race as AgustaWestland was eliminated before trials itself," a Defence Ministry source said here.

Recently, in a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, the Ministry had asked the Army to take "responsibility" that there was no wrongdoing in the charges against the officer after which the force asked the Government to conduct a probe before taking any further decision, they said.

The DAC also has to take a call on whether to allow the deviations from the tendering process by the two companies and a Special Technical Oversight Committee (STOC) has submitted its report in this regard.

After the charges came up, the Ministry had asked the Italian government to provide the name and relevant documents relating to the alleged involvement of the Brigadier in the ongoing process for acquisition of 197 helicopters for the Army.

The allegations have been levelled against the officer, who has denied the charges, in a letter allegedly sent by an AgustaWestland official in India to his superiors in Italy saying the Brigadier was seeking USD 5 million for facilitating the deal in their favour.

The deal for procuring 197 light choppers has already been cancelled once in 2007 in the last stages.

PTI