Once India cancelled an order to buy helicopters because the deal with manufacturer AgustaWestland was studded with bribes, Dr Manmohan Singh, who was then Prime Minister, was not approached to influence the investigation in Delhi, a top Italian diplomat has said.
Earlier this month, an Italian court convicted top executives of AgustaWestland’s parent, the Italian firm Finmeccanica, for corruption in the India deal. The judge deliberated upon documents seized from middlemen and executives of both firms. Among those notes is one from Giuseppe Orsi, who was CEO of Finmecannica, and was arrested in 2013. From prison, Mr Orsi wrote to aides, asking that they press upon the then Italian premier, Mario Monti, or Ambassador Pasquale Terraciano, to phone Dr Singh for an intervention.
Mr Terraciano told NDTV that neither he nor the Italian Prime Minister received any request for assistance from Finmecannica.
“Ambassador Terracciano has never called PM Singh and is not aware of any call being made by the then PM Monti to Prime Minister Singh on the matter, nor of any attempt of anyone getting in touch with Indian officials on behalf of Finmeccanica. Moreover, Ambassador Terracciano has never met any Indian officials who made a mention to the said case, nor Ms. Gandhi or her advisors,” a statement from his office said.
In early 2014, India cancelled the 3,600-crore Agusta order for a dozen choppers for use by VVIPs including the Prime Minister and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who is described in a middleman’s note as “the driving force” for the decision to acquire new helicopters.
It was the Italian investigation against Finmecannica that pushed India into action, which also ordered a CBI inquiry to determine who had been paid nearly 30,000 euros in bribes.
The documents referred to in the Italian judgement mention several senior Congress leaders, allowing the BJP to claim that there is now incontestable evidence of the Agusta scam originating from the very top of the Congress.
Mrs Gandhi and Dr Singh have denied any wrongdoing and have asked the government to ensure an impartial inquiry.