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Indian Air Force to return 3 Agusta Westland choppers

Source : Times Now

IAF to return 3 Agusta Westland choppers
Indian Air Force Agusta Westland 101 Helicopter (File Photo)

For about a decade, three AgustaWestland 101 helicopters have been in Palam, with the Indian Air Force. Now, three years after reports of the scam in the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters, a Rs 3,600 crore deal, a decision has been taken to return them to Leonardo, which owns AgustaWestland.

The IAF has been telling the defence ministry about returning the mothballed choppers, and now that Leonardo is no longer a banned organisation, and the Indian government can do business with it, they can be handed back, is the argument.

After the deal was signed by the UPA administration, headed by Dr Manmohan Singh, there were reports of payoffs in 2013, after which A.K. Antony, then defence minister, cancelled the deal and ordered an investigation.By then, three choppers had been given by AgustaWestland and they remained with the IAF. The defence ministry had also banned AgustaWestland.

The IAF had made several points:

First, since the deal was scrapped, the choppers belong to AgustaWestland and now that the ban has been lifted, they can be returned.

* As they have been lying in a shed without being used for a decade, it would not be a good idea to use them for VVIP duties.

* They could, at best, be used for moving cargo, but since it does not belong to the IAF, why even plan to use it? Then, there will be a problem with spares and other related equipment in the future, even if it was decided to hold on to them. Most importantly though, since the contract was cancelled, it should be returned to the owners: AgustaWestland. Also, now that the ban has been lifted, there is no legal problem in returning them.

Sources said that a decision has been taken and the logistical work, about when and how they would be taken back will be decided. Even though the ban has been lifted, the investigation continues and several participants in the deal, including Christian Michel, are in prison.

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