New Delhi: The bribery-tainted deal for AgustaWestland VVIP choppers figured prominently in talks between visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Tuesday with India conveying its “serious concerns” over the charges that have become the talking point of the nation and Britain assuring it will respond to any request for information.
Cameron, who is here on a three-day visit at the head of the biggest ever 100-member delegation, including businessmen, said: “We would respond to any request for information.”
He said the Italian authorities were looking into this issue in detail as Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, the British subsidiary of the Rome-based company.
Cameron asserted that Britain has tough anti-bribery laws and anyone found guilty of corruption would be punished.
“We are extremely clear in Britain we have introduced anti-bribery legislation, the strongest anywhere in the world”, he said.
Singh conveyed India’s “very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means” used in securing the $750 million (Dh2.75 billion) contract for AgustaWestland helicopters.
“I told him that we have sought an explanation from the company by February 22 to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the Integrity Pact have been violated. I have sought full assistance from the UK in this case. Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigations,” the prime minister said.
The talks between the two leaders comes even as Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the government “has nothing to hide” in the chopper controversy and is prepared for a discussion in parliament. Antony has also refuted reports about his resignation.
“Our hands are very clean and we have nothing to worry. The government has nothing to hide. We will explain everything to parliament,” Antony told reporters.
He denied any rift in the government on the scrapping of the chopper deal.
“There are no differences. The government is acting together,” Antony said and added that the issue was being handled by the defence ministry.
A team of CBI and defence ministry officials left for Italy on Monday to get more information on the alleged kickbacks in chopper deal that was first publicised in the Italian media.
The defence ministry last week initiated action for cancellation of the chopper contract. It also issued a formal show-cause notice to AgustaWestland to explain within a week why the contract should not be cancelled.
The matter came to light after Italian agencies arrested Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for suspected corruption to seal the deal.