Chopper scam probe: Italian court rejects India request for papers
An Italian court, hearing the VVIP chopper deal scam case, has rejected India’s request for documents related to the investigations into the matter, arguing that the “information is covered by secrecy”.
The Defence Ministry is sending a Joint Secretary to Italy to gather “as much evidence as possible” relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 12 helicopters for the IAF from Italian firm AgustaWestland.
The Indian Embassy in Rome had made the request for the details and documents of the probe on February 13 after the arrest of Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi in connection with allegations that kickbacks to the tune of Rs. 360 crore were paid in the Rs. 3,600 crore deal, sources said in New Delhi on Saturday.
The Indian mission received communication on Saturday from the Judge of Preliminary Investigations of the Tribunal Busto Arsizio Luca Labianca stating that it was “not possible to give a positive reply” to the Indian request, the sources said.
In the letter received by the embassy, the judge said, “The investigations were, in fact, at a preliminary stage, during which, as per Article 329 of code of Penal Procedure, all information are covered by secrecy. Only parties and their lawyers were allowed to have access to the information and documents.”
The Italian judge told the embassy that his office will consider a “fresh request” from the Indian side once the secrecy obligations into the matter get over.
Amid the major uproar, the government has already ordered a CBI probe into the case and has threatened to scrap the deal.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry is sending Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager (Air) Arun Kumar Bal to Italy on Monday to try to get as much information as possible related to the facts of the deal. The Defence Ministry on Friday sent a show cause notice to AgustaWestland asking why the contract should not be cancelled in view of the corruption allegations against it. It sought a reply within seven days.
Joint CBI-MoD team to visit Italy.
A joint team of CBI and Defence Ministry is likely to leave for Italy on Sunday to probe the alleged kickbacks in the deal. CBI sources said the team will meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain the details of the case.
The sources said two members of CBI comprising DIG-level officer and a law officer besides officers from the Defence Ministry will be part of team.
The CBI was handed over a letter from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe by it in the case which has triggered a storm in the country. Attached with the letter were some Indian and Italian press clippings, which the CBI said, could not form the basis for registering a case.
The CBI had sought help of Indian mission in Rome which too has not been able to provide any authenticated court documents to the agency, sources said.
This was followed by the CBI seeking help of Interpol which also expressed inability to provide any help in the absence of any regular case not having been registered by the agency, the sources said.
The Defence Ministry had on Friday sent a team led by Joint Secretary and an Air Commodore of Indian Air Force, who gave a presentation to the CBI about the tendering procedures and various stages while finalising the helicopter deal with AugustaWestland.
- Asian Tribune -