Modi must explain why blacklisted Augusta Westland was allowed to bid for Navy deal: Congress

The Congress demanded a CBI probe into Modi’s role in “exonerating” the Italian defence and aerospace major which was blacklisted by the Congress-led UPA government

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Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being the "protector, benefactor and promoter" of AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica, the Congress on Wednesday, December 5, demanded a CBI probe into Modi's role in "exonerating" the Italian defence and aerospace major which was blacklisted by the UPA.

The Congress alleged that the Modi government was indulging in a cover-up to "hide its sinister role in helping and promoting the AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica which were blacklisted by the UPA.

A day after British national Christian Michel James, a middleman wanted in the ₹3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, was extradited to India, the Congress attacked Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of "using him to launch a smear campaign" against opposition leaders.

Giving the timeline, Congress said a contract for purchase of 12 helicopters was allotted in February 2010 to Agusta Westland (parent company being Finmecanica) for ₹3,546 crore. But, later after media reports, the then Congress-led UPA government cancelled the Augusta Westland contract in February 2013 and handed over the investigation to the CBI on February 12, 2013.

Later, on February 10, 2014, the Congress-led UPA government initiated proceedings to blacklist Agusta Westland and its parent company, Finmecanica. It also encashed the bank guarantees worth ₹240 crore of Agusta Westland deposited with Indian banks.

Additionally, the Congress-led UPA government also filed a case against Agusta Westland in Milan, Italy and on May 23, 2014, the UPA govt won the case for encashment of International guarantees of Agusta Westland to recover €2,28,00,00,00 (₹1,824.2 crore, according to December 5 exchange rate).

“In addition, UPA-Congress Govt confiscated 3 Agusta Westland helicopters which remain in our possession. The contracted value of these helicopters is ₹295.50 * 3, which equals ₹886.50 crore,” pointed out Surjewala.

"The most intriguing part of the conspiracy is the undisclosed reason on part of Modi government for permitting a blacklisted company to get clearances from Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and permit its entry as partner or sub-contractor to various Indian corporates,”said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.

"Not only this, the Modi government also sought a special opinion from its Attorney General in July 2014. and permitted AgustaWestland/Finmeccanica to be part of Make in India and bid for 100 Naval Utility Helicopters, besides clearing its investment proposals through FIPB for manufacture of AW119 helicopters in partnership with Tata," said Surjewala.

The Congress said it was time for the CBI to investigate Modi's role in exonerating AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica instead of "weaving fake story to deflect attention".

“BJP has ‘3M’ Strategy in Agusta Case-‘Misguiding,Mudslinging & Misleading Nation’ PM Modi is ‘Protector & Benefactor of #AgustaWestland –is making loud noise to hide own misdeeds! BJP wants to ‘manufacture’ false evidence rather than discover the truth of their own ‘Corruption’,” tweeted Surjewala.

Citing Michel's advocate Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos' July 17 statement, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the "Modi government and its agencies were forcing Michel to sign a false confessional statement naming UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in return for complete exoneration from any charge whatsoever in the AgustaWestland Case".

"Even Michel's sister had come out and reiterated the coercions of falsely naming opposition leaders as a ticket for exoneration of Christian Michel. Their interviews were recorded by many Indian TV channels also," added Surjewala.

"Never before in the history of India has a Prime Minister been found complicit in gaining false evidence against opposition leaders to seek revenge.

"This shocking expose is also a testimony to the disease prevailing in CBI/ED prostrating before the Prime Minister to collect fake and false evidence with a single minded aim of tarnishing the reputation of opposition leaders and serving the political masters as a captive puppet and a willing tool of malicious conspiracy," alleged Surjewala.

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Published: 05 Dec 2018, 6:04 PM