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Antony`s comment on copter deal smacks of hypocrisy: BJP

The BJP on Monday lashed out at the Congress-led UPA Government over Defence Minister AK Antony`s comment that the AgustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP helicopters was tainted.

New Delhi/Kochi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday lashed out at the Congress-led UPA Government over Defence Minister AK Antony`s comment that the AgustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP helicopters was tainted, saying it smacks of hypocrisy for the Centre is talking in vague terms instead of identifying the accused and prosecuting him or her.

BJP leader Balbir Punj said it is a settled fact that bribe was given in this helicopter deal.

"It is a settled fact that so and so has given the bribe. All that you need to do now is identify the person who has taken the money. And obviously, whosoever took the money has to be a very influential person because he or she was in a position to use his or her influence to swing the deal in favour of the Italian company," Punj told mediapersons in the national capital.

"Now, that is all that needs to be done. And instead of identifying that person and prosecuting him or her, this government is still talking in vague terms that we will do this and that; it smacks of hypocrisy," he added.

Talking to the media in Kochi, Antony earlier in the day confirmed that corruption had taken place in the helicopter deal with Italian company AgustaWestland.

"Yes, corruption has taken place in the helicopter deal and bribes have been taken. The CBI is pursuing the case very vigorously," he said.

Antony further said that a new defence procurement policy would soon be ready.

"Please wait for some more time, and there is no doubt very strict action would be taken against those who are involved," Antony said.

"We have been emphasising on indigenisation in defence procurement and the new policy preparation has reached the final stages, and will spell out all such things," he added.

The UPA Government had earlier this month announced that it would change its defence procurement policy.

Antony, who was replying to questions in the Lok Sabha on March 4 on the allegations of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore in the Rs 3,600 crore deal to procure 12 VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland, said ``within a few months we are going to change the defence procurement procedure again``.

Antony further said that the government had to import defence equipment because the services require the most modern equipment to meet their operational necessity.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has so far named 11 people, including former Air Force chief SP Tyagi, and his three cousins in its preliminary enquiry into the AgustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP helicopters.

The CBI team has registered the preliminary inquiry on the basis of some important documents obtained from the Italian probe agencies into the alleged payment of kickbacks by AgustaWestland in India to bag the deal, and a full-fledged case would be registered once it finds sufficient evidence.

The Defence Ministry had earlier threatened to cancel the deal and sought a CBI probe after the CEO of AgustaWestland`s parent company, Finmeccanica, was arrested in Italy for paying bribes.