Defence ministry keeps 27 arms companies out of its exhibition Defexpo 2014 next month - The Times of India TNN | Jan 29, 2014, 04.44 AM IST NEW DELHI: The defence ministry is keeping as many as 27 Indian and foreign armament companies, including the Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica as well as its subsidiaries like AgustaWestland, out of the forthcoming biennial military exhibition Defexpo 2014 beginning here from February 6. The decision to keep out Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland, embroiled in the VVIP helicopter scandal, was taken last week despite the conglomerate having already booked space in the exhibition by paying the participating fee, as was reported last week. Ministry of defence sources on Tuesday said 27 firms, including 15 companies already on the "debarred" list and those under CBI scanner, had been refused to display their wares in Defexpo, where over 455 companies are expected to participate this year. MoD is yet to taken a decision on whether to actually blacklist AgustaWestland, the UK-based subsidiary of Finmeccanica, or the entire conglomerate with its different subsidiaries for the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,546 crore contract for the 12 VVIP helicopters, which was scrapped on January 1. Defence minister AK Antony has said the blacklisting issue will be decided only after the MoD consults the law ministry and the CBI. At present, MoD is concentrating on "encashing" the bank guarantees provided by AgustaWestland in the deal, which total up to around 270 million euros and is roughly equivalent to the amount already paid to the company after the delivery of the first three helicopters. Finmeccanica and its companies are already involved in several ongoing defence projects in India. By one estimate, the conglomerate is in contention for Indian military contracts worth over $6 billion, ranging from helicopters and aircraft to missiles and guns. MoD has already put on hold its own recent clearance to the long-pending Rs 1,800 crore naval project to buy 98 'Black Shark' heavy-weight torpedoes, manufactured by another Finmeccanica subsidiary, Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS), for the Scorpene submarines, as reported earlier by TOI.