NEW DELHI — Indian Defence Ministry officials say they have made no decision to blacklist AgustaWestland despite investigations over possible corruption in a $720 million VVIP helicopter deal.
Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the Indian Parliament in a written reply on March 6: “The operation of the Contract has been put on hold and further payments to M/s Agusta Westland, U.K. stopped. No decision to blacklist the Company has so far been taken.”
The MoD asked India’s anti-fraud agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to probe the helicopter deal in which the Indian Air Force bought 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland.
In another reply to a written question from the Indian Parliament, Antony said the U.K authorities have yet to begin investigating the matter.
“The matter (pertaining to the copter deal) was also taken up, through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with the United Kingdom (U.K.) Government in view of the alleged involvement of a British consultant and the fact that the contract had been signed with AgustaWestland, U.K.
“The U.K. side informed MEA that they have not launched any investigation and are awaiting the results of the Italian investigation in order to ascertain whether any further action needs to be taken,” Antony said.
India contracted to buy 12 AW101 helicopters in 2010 for $720 million. The first global tender for the purchase was issued in 2002. However, an operational requirement that the helicopter be able to fly at a height of 6,000 meters left only the Eurocopter EC225 in the running, so the tender became a single vendor situation and therefore was canceled.
The tender was again issued in September 2006 and the requirement was reduced to 4,500 meters. AgustaWestland’s AW101 was selected over the Sikorsky S-92 and Mi-172.