Punish beneficiaries in scam: Antony

Punish beneficiaries in scam: Antony

Thought of resigning, but staying to know name of bribe-taker

Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday revealed that he thought of resigning from his post in the wake of the VVIP helicopter scam but decided to stay on as he wanted to know the name of the bribe taker and punish him.

“I felt ashamed by the scam. But I am not running away. I am here, I want to find out who are the culprits and punish them. That’s my duty,” an emotionally charged minister, known for his “Mr Clean” image, said in the Rajya Sabha responding to a debate on choppergate during which his ministry came under sharp criticism from the BJP.

But he gave a clear hint of a slowdown of the probe from the Indian side till the Italian authorities complete their preliminary investigation because under Italian secrecy law,
only the (accused) parties and their lawyers would have access to court documents.

    Antony said: “The Italian judge told us their secret inquiry is at the fag end and they are giving final shape to the report. Once the preliminary inquiry is over, they will share it with us. It will come out in a few weeks or months.”

 He insisted that the government could not start a legal process without official
documents.

When the Indian team comprising officials from Central Bureau of Investigation, Defence and External Affairs Ministry met the Italian prosecutors, the Italians pointed out they would not be able to talk or share information on the VVIP chopper deal under their law.

The team met the judge concerned, who also clarified provisions of Italian secrecy law to Indian officials. “We have corresponded with Italian agencies eight times for the documents. But only the arrested persons and their lawyers can have the documents. That’s the reason for the delay,” Antony informed the House of Elders.

Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, top executives of Italian aerospace major Finmeccanica and its UK-based subsidiary Agusta Westland respectively, have been arrested by the Italian authorities so far.

The CBI has named 11 individuals, including Orsi, Spagnolini and six Indians, besides four companies in its preliminary enquiry report.

The government had enough options to act against the company, if found guilty. The choices include barring the company for a minimum of five years or more, financial recovery from the company and encashing of bank guarantee. “We will take the strongest action in accordance with the integrity pact,” he added.

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