More corruption

More corruption

In spite of all the outrage and campaign against corruption, it remains a driving force in the conduct of public officials in the country.

Reports from Italy  which appeared in the last two days show that the steps taken or planned by the government to curb it have not had any great impact. It had long ago claimed that defence deals, which are notorious for kickbacks, are clean. But the reports about the arrest of the CEO of an Italian company by authorities in that country for payment of bribes to the tune of Rs 362 crore for supply of helicopters to the Indian Air Force have shown that deals continue to be commission-based. Irregularities were committed to make the company eligible for bidding and then to swing the deal its way. The charges point to the highest echelons of the IAF. A CBI enquiry has been ordered, but defence corruption has again come into prime focus with the scandal.

India signed a Rs 3,600 crore deal in 2010 for the purchase of 12 helicopters from the Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland, a unit of Finmeccanica. Italian prosecutors have been investigating the deal on suspicion of irregular financial dealings, though the company has been denying any wrongdoing. The investigations have led to the arrest of the Finmeccanica chief, house arrest of the head of AgustaWestland and the launch of extradition proceedings against two agents from Switzerland. While the investigation is at an advanced stage in Italy, it is yet to start in India.

Former chief of air staff S P Tyagi, who has been reportedly named in the Italian probe as the recipient of the kickback, has denied any involvement. He has also rejected the charge that he helped the company to secure the deal, citing the fact that he was not the IAF chief when the deal was signed.

But a bland denial and claim of alibis may not be enough to convince the world of his innocence, because it is known that corruption travels through sophisticated and ingenious ways. We live in an environment so pervasive with corruption that the public is not ready to believe that anybody is innocent, unless convincingly proved so. Defence minister AK Antony has said that nobody would be spared, if found guilty. The investigation should find out the truth, especially because it is for the first time that the name of a service chief figures in a procurement corruption investigation.

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