AgustaWestland blacklisting: Parrikar challenges Cong

NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today challenged the Congress to show the UPA government order blacklisting the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland in connection with the VVIP chopper scam.

Parrikar, who said that he will speak in detail in Parliament on the issue in the near future, informed that the Ministry has received a copy of the Italian court order and is in the process of translating it into English.

He said that the process might take 8-10 days.

Parrikar also took a dig at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying translation from Italian was not easy, “at least for the ruling side. May not be a difficult task for the opposition”.

A combative Parrikar hit back when asked about Congress’ allegation that while UPA had blacklisted the company, the NDA government removed it from the blacklist.

“When did they blacklist? Ask them first. Ask them what date the order was issued? Show me the copy of the order,” the Minister said.

Asked if he meant that the firm was never blacklisted, he said, “I am not saying that”.

Interestingly, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on February 5, 2014, the then Defence Minister A K Antony, while giving details on AgustaWestland, had said, “No decision has been taken till date to debar the said company”.

This runs contrary to what the Congress has been claiming because the reply came just months ahead of the regime change.

However, records of state-run HAL show that Agusta Westland International Ltd, UK, Finmeccanica, Italy and its group of companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, IDS Tunisia and Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, were blacklisted on July 3, 2014, when NDA was in power, because of the CBI case against them to inquire into alleged criminal wrongdoing in the procurement of VVIP Helicopters.

Hitting back at BJP on the VVIP chopper deal, Congress had yesterday alleged that AgustaWestland was “removed” from the blacklisted category by the Modi dispensation.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma had said, “The chopper deal was scrapped. Action was taken by the UPA government. A K Antony, the then Defence Minister, had made a statement in Parliament and Agusta Westland was blacklisted.”