AgustaWestland: Government denies deal with Italian PM

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday denied reports of Prime Minister Narendra Modi striking a deal with his Italian counterpart to free two Italian marines accused of killing Indian fishermen for information on the “Gandhi family”.

Jaitley also said the investigation in the VVIP chopper scam is in an “advanced stage”.

The remarks came after Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad questioned if a deal was struck between Modi and his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi.

Azad, speaking in relation with the AgustaWestland scam, said: “Modi offered to free marines for information on Gandhi family.”

“AgustaWestland helicopter deal middleman might have stood by his sensational submission made to an international court that Indian prime minister had attempted to cut a deal on Italian marine issue with his counterpart Italian prime minister at a brush by meeting at UN in September 2015,” Azad said.

“According to him when the deal was struck between two prime ministers, pronouncement of judgment had come from that side and subsequently now the Indian government is allowing Italian marines to return home. So that means the deal has been struck. I would like to know from government whether such meeting has taken place,” he said.

The Congress leader also said that when “corrupt practice” related to the AgustaWestland deal, adding that United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government blacklisted the company, ordered probe by the CBI and ED and cancelled the deal.

“Government of India through court got the entire bank guarantee money back. We recovered the total advance money. Three helicopters had already come so we did not give them back,” he said.

Azad also questioned why Narendra Modi government allowed the blacklisted AgustaWestland to participate in Make in India.

Jaitley, however, said reports of Modi meeting Italian prime minister is totally false.

He also took a dig at Congress saying that they have given clarification in advance as a member has given notice to raise the issue.

“Let me categorically say report in newspaper cited by leader of opposition is false and untrue in its entirety. There was no such meeting,” Jaitley said.

“That report that was intended to provide friends on the other side a possible basis of defence doesn’t exist. The principal issue is that there was a defence transaction, and in the defence transaction there is alleged to be bribe payment. The bribe giver has been convicted the identity of the bribe taker has to be established,” Jaitley said.

“The bribe giver at the time when the conspiracy was being executed has made some written admissions. The relevance of those admissions have to be examined by investigation agencies,” he said.

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