Centre seeks details of copter deal during Raje tenure

The Defence Ministry has sought details of the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopter for VIPs during the tenure of Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in Rajasthan in 2005.

According to sources, the ministry has sought procurement details including all the relevant papers of the Agusta A109E power helicopter. The chief secretary has directed the civil aviation department to furnish the documents mentioning circumstances in which the deal was executed.

The deal has put the then chief minister Vasundhara Raje also in the dock when the comptroller and auditor general (CAG), in its 2008 report, detected several irregularities and procedural lapses costing the exchequer a loss of around Rs 1.14 crore.

The CBI is already probing the alleged financial irregularities and payoffs in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter deal with AgustaWestland. The Vasundhara Raje government had bought the helicopter for about Rs 20 crore for VIPs such as chief minister, governor and visiting dignitaries.

But the copter turned out to be a white elephant as it flew for the first time only in 2007 for want of a trained pilot. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had a close shave after the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing after developing technical snag in November 2011.

Since then the helicopter has been abandoned and the government is seeking a buyer to dispose of the chopper, but in vain. Under the terms and conditions of the contract, the company was supposed to train two pilots. Additional flight training was supposed to given to one pilot and maintenance training to two technicians designated by the state government at its facilities in Italy following the delivery of the helicopter.

However, the training was given to only one pilot and almost five months after the helicopter was delivered.

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