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Take Action, Don't Threaten: AK Antony To Govt On AgustaWestland Deal
Former Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday acknowledged "corruption" in the AgustaWestland chopper deal but said the then UPA dispensation had done no wrong and asked the government to take strong action against those involved without threatening or blackmailing Congress leaders
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Former Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday (04 May) acknowledged "corruption" in the AgustaWestland chopper deal but said the then UPA dispensation had done no wrong and asked the government to take strong action against those involved without threatening or blackmailing Congress leaders.
He said the previous NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had changed the parameters required for acquiring the helicopters for VVIPs.
"Don't try to create doubts, you will not succeed. Don't politicise, you will repent. If you have all evidence, take strong action. But don't threaten and don't blackmail," he said while participating in short duration discussion on the AugustaWestland issue in Rajya Sabha.
Making a spirited defence of the actions of the UPA government, he read out an official release of the Ministry of Defence issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on February 14, 2013, listing steps taken by him as Defence Minister after allegations of corruption surfaced.
"It is proved beyond doubt there is corruption. There is Italy judgement. All legal hurdles are over, you have to act," he said.
Asking the government to conduct the case successfully, Antony said, "You have to first speed up arbitration proceedings. ...Now, corruption is proved and we can get thousands of crores as compensation."
He asked the government to take action against the company which gave money and "take action against takers whoever they may be".
Antony also made a strong plea for immediate ban on companies concerned. "You immediately ban these companies for 10 years. Do it as quickly as possible."
He said that since AugustaWestland has been held as a "corrupt company" by Italian courts, don't involve them in the Make in India projects. "If they are there, remove them.
Don't cover up. Don't politicise."
Antony claimed that the decision to change the flying altitude from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres was taken by then PMO and NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003.
"The decision to change height was taken by the PMO. It was taken during that time. The major decision was taken by your government in 2003," he said.
The former Defence Minister further said the cabin height requirement was also changed to 1.8 feet from 1.4 feet by the PMO in the Vajpayee government.
"All decisions were taken by your government. Don't put blame on us," Antony told the government.
He said procurement proceeds were done as per norms and it was normal practice to allow field trials abroad.
"We adopted policy of zero corruption in defence procurement. During UPA-I onwards, conscious efforts were made to eliminate corruption in defence procurement," he said.
Asserting that UPA acted immediately after the first report in media on alleged scam in helicopter deal appeared, Antony said: "The next day, the Director General Acquisition acted. Then onwards, MoD was contacted, even MEA and the UK government -- ultimately all attempts failed. We became a party in the case in Italy."
A team comprising officials of MoD, MEA and and CBI were present in the every hearing in Italy, he said.
"In short, MoD was very prompt in taking action and pursuing the case," Antony said.
He further said that after the arrest of the CEO of Finmeccanica in 2013, the case was immediately handed over CBI and put an hold of payments.
"I made a statement. After that, we made a commitment for JPC. Normallly, JPC is constituted after the demand from the Opposition. ...then LoP said it was useless. We were willing to have JPC, you opposed that opportunity," he said.
The MoD joined the case as affected party in Italy.
During the hearing, there was a mention about 'family". "What do you mean by family? Family means Tyagi family," he added.
Antony also said during UPA rule, six companies were blacklisted in one go for corruption, thus sending a strong message to arms dealers that India will not tolerate corruption.