BJP geared up to raise chopper scam in parliament

New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) The BJP is geared up to raise the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam in parliament and rake up the names of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh to corner the opposition party, informed sources said on Tuesday.

The sources said the government will seek details from the Indian embassy in Rome on the case.

The sources said that the judgment by a Milan court in Italy, that sent Finmeccanica’s former CEO Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland ex-head Bruno Spagnolini to jail for false accounting and corruption in the sale of the firm’s 12 VVIP choppers to India, contains the names of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi.

The documents — mentioning ‘Signora (Mrs) Gandhi’ and Manmohan Singh – however do not contain any evidence on their involvement in the deal or any proof of receiving kickbacks.

Documents related to Orsi’s trial show that while he was lodged in Busto Arsixio jail, custodial agents found in his cell, among other papers, a handwritten note, a copy of which was produced during the court proceedings.

The note read: “Call Monti, or amb. TERRACCIANO, in my name to ask him, to call the P.M. Singh.”

While it is not clear as to what the note exactly referred to, it was interpreted that ‘Monti’ referred to former Italian prime minister Mario Monti, amb. TERRACCIANO was Pasquale Terracciano, who at the time was diplomatic adviser to the Italian prime minister, and PM Singh was identified as Manmohan Singh, the then prime minister of India.

The Italian court, however, observed it was in no position to determine what the message was.

Another letter dated March 15, 2008, seized by investigators and signed by alleged middleman Christian Michel, calls Sonia Gandhi the “driving force” behind the deal.

“Dear Peter, since Mrs Gandhi is the driving force behind VIP, will no longer fly in the MI-8. Mrs Gandhi and her closest advisers are the people who the British ambassador should target.”

The documents also mention Congress leader Ahmad Patel’s name.

Former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi’s name also finds mention in the documents for allegedly receiving kickbacks.

Three of the helicopters were delivered to the Indian Air Force before the contract — signed in February 2010 — was cancelled.

The IAF sought the AgustaWestland choppers as a replacement for its Mi-17 cargo helicopters that were modified for VVIP deployment.

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