Against the backdrop of bribery allegations, the Indian Air Force has received the first two of the 12 three-engined AW 101 helicopters, procured at the cost of Rs 3,550 crore for ferrying VVIPs like the President and the Prime Minister, at the Palam air base here.
India had signed a Rs 3,550 crore deal in 2010 with the Anglo-Italian firm Agusta Westland for buying 12 of these three-engined choppers.
The first AW 101 arrived at the Palam air base on December 20 while the second one was delivered on December 22. The delivery of all the 12 choppers is expected to be completed by the middle of next year, IAF sources said.
While Italian prosecutors are looking into the allegations of bribery in the deal to procure VVIP helicopters from Augusta Westland, the Indian government is also keeping a close watch on the probe taking place there.Recently, Defence Minister A K Antony had said if any wrongdoing is found in the case, “suitable penalty measures” will be taken by the Ministry.
“Defence Ministry is constantly pursuing the matter and committed to take suitable penalty measures in the event of allegations being substantiated,” he had said.
Reports in Italian and Indian media suggested unethical dealings by Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica in the deal. The Indian embassy in Rome also took up the matter with the Italian government for their official position on the issue.
The AW 101 choppers would be operated by the Communication Squadron of the IAF, which also operates the three Boeing business jets and four Embraers used by the VVIPs.
Agusta Westland had pipped its rival American Sikorsky in the race for bagging the deal.