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Parrikar rejects Congress demand for SC probe, says will track payoffs

Parrikar, responding to a discussion on a calling attention motion in the Lok Sabha on the issue, said: “I will ensure that the CBI and ED do their job.”

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: May 7, 2016 6:10:36 am
parrikar, manohar parrikar, agustawestland, congress, congress parliament, parliament, agustawestland parliament, parliament news, india news Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI Photo/ TV grab)

Rejecting the Congress demand for a Supreme Court-monitored inquiry into the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Friday vowed to track down the recipients of alleged kickbacks.

Parrikar, responding to a discussion on a calling attention motion in the Lok Sabha on the issue, said: “I will ensure that the CBI and ED do their job.”

“I hope members are satisfied and they will support the Government in finding the truth…The truth may lead to many unwanted realism…What we could not do in Bofors, may be we will do it in AgustaWestland…So, it is basically logical that money has been paid to someone from the other side, not from this side (Treasury benches). That part, I think, has been clearly agreed,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi was seated right across and her son Rahul Gandhi a row behind her, when Parrikar and BJP members Nishikant Dubey and Anurag Thakur mounted a blistering attack on her and the Congress-led UPA regime.

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Both led a walkout by the Congress to press for an SC-monitored inquiry. “We want Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court,” the Congress members shouted in unison as they trooped out. In the charged atmosphere, ruling NDA members could be seen heckling and gesturing to them to leave with a few using an unparliamentary expression too.

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The walkout may have enabled the Congress to make its point but, in the process, it left the field wide open for Parrikar. He was checked by Mohammad Salim of the CPI(M) and Asaduddin Owaisi (MIM) a bit but was able to hold forth.

The Defence Minister said the tender was submitted by AgustaWestland but the contract was given to UK-based Agusta Westland International Ltd (AWIL), which was not Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). “Actually, there are so many irregularities,” he said, “ I am shocked and this is the biggest shock for me. How could you have given an order and accepted the tender of a company to whom you have not given the tender? I feel one paper is enough for the CVC. They had lost sense of proportion. They thought that they will be permanently in the ruling. The smell of money or the sight of Euro probably was so attractive or intoxicating that forgot about small little things”.

“We will definitely recover (the) bribe — we will recover something like 398 million Euros, which is the damage we are claiming”, he said, adding, “This process will start now”. Referring to the Italian court proceedings, he said, “With this judgment, the criminal conspiracy is established. We will now get the documents very fast”.

Parrikar kept pointing at Congress benches, mentioned even “AP” (the initials in a handwritten note purportedly written by a middleman which the Opposition allegs refers to Ahmed Patel. Patel has strongly denied this and the middleman Christian Michel has distanced himself from the note).

The Defence Minister maintained that the “entire corruption” in the case took place during the UPA regime. He said while the decision on the contract was taken in 2010, Air chief S P Tyagi had retired in 2007. “Who gave order in 2010?… How much that person has got we have to find that out…. He (Tyagi) was not there then”, the Defence Minister said. Tyagi might “might have got just ‘chillar’ (loose change)”.

Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan, according to him, were “small people” who just happened to wash their hands in a flowing ganga (behti ganga).” However, the Government will “find out where the river was going”, the minister declared.

He said: “An investigation is underway with regard to those who washed hands in the flowing Ganga. Those who wash hands in the Ganga have an idea about temperature of the water, how fast the water is flowing. Based on that, we are assessing whether water was cold or hot, whether the water had Hindi, English, Italian or German and what was the issue”.

Parrikar said the decision to prescribe a higher cabin height of 1.8 m of the helicopter was taken by the UPA regime on May 9, 2005. He placed on the table of the House the minutes of the meeting that was chaired by the then NSA M K Narayanan. Making 1.8 metre height of the cabin mandatory ensured that only AgustaWestland could qualify.

He said the then Defence Minister A K Antony was compelled to send the files to the CBI only when he realised that he would stand “disrobed of sainthood” after a top official of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, was arrested in Italy in connection with bribery in the deal.

Regarding the Congress claim that the Italian judge had said that there was no evidence against Sonia, the Defence Minister said the judge had said that it was for India to investigate.

Parrikar claimed there was an attempt to destroy evidence — a “mysterious” fire took place at Air Force headquarters on July 3, 2014. He said all files were burnt but three related to the AgustaWestland deal were saved as those had been kept by an official in his locked drawer.

BJP’s Anurag Thakur claimed that “recently, a senior leader of the Congress had gone to meet a middleman who lives in Dubai.”

He alleged that the “then SPG chief, the NSA or the Defence Secretary – they are all occupying constitutional positions today”. They were provided with immunity, he said, so that they cannot be questioned…today, somebody is a governor, somebody the CAG.”

In an apparent reference to Brajesh Mishra, Thakur’s party colleague Nishikant Dubey said one could figure out now why the Congress give Padma Vibhushan to the person who had been the principal secretary in the PMO in 2003. He made it clear, “We did not give Padma Vibhushan to him”.

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