CBI meets defence ministry officials; seeks records

Finding some newspaper clippings provided by the Defence Ministry insufficient for probe in the VVIP helicopter deal, the CBI today asked the ministry to furnish all documents, including its internal investigation, for registering a formal enquiry in the case.

A CBI team met a Joint Secretary level officer in the Defence Ministry who is also Acquisition Manager (Air) and sought all records required to proceed with the probe in connection with the alleged kickbacks paid to clear the Rs 3,600 crore deal, agency sources said.

During the meeting, the CBI team asked the officials to provide it files related to any sort of internal enquiry undertaken by it in connection with alleged graft in acquiring 12 AW-101 helicopters from Italian firm AgustaWestland for IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, PM and other VVIPs, they said.

The agency also asked the officials to provide prima facie conclusions arrived in the probe.

The sources said the agency managed to get the 64-page report filed by Italian prosecutors through informal channels but it cannot proceed with the probe on this basis.

They said they had gone through the complaint given by the Defence Ministry and found that they have not provided any material except some press clippings which are not enough to proceed with a preliminary enquiry in the case.

According to the sources, Defence Ministry has deputed an IAF officer as nodal officer to help the CBI in its probe.

They said the ministry has provided some documents and also assured the agency to provide all the details as soon as possible so that probe can be initiated by it.

CBI registers a preliminary enquiry when a complaint is received or information is available which may indicate serious misconduct on the part of a public servant but is not adequate to justify registration of a regular case.

On Monday, Italian agencies had arrested the then CEO of Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland, Giuseppe Orsi, for alleged bribe given to Indian middlemen to clinch the deal.

Yesterday, the agency had received a complaint from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe in the alleged kickbacks given in the procurement of 12 helicopters from Finmeccanica's subsidiary AgustaWestland.

In February 2010, India had inked the Rs 3,600 crore deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from the Italian company for the services of VVIPs including the President and the PM.

Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate is also monitoring the developments and might register a case under the stringent clauses of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in this deal once the CBI files an FIR and also will take in account its ongoing investigation under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

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