Did Rajasthan govt exclusively require AgustaWestland's AW169 helicopter for Raje?

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasudhara Raje

At a time when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led NDA government is busy cornering the Congress Party for its alleged involvement in AgustaWestland Chopper scam, reports of the Rajasthan government wanting only an AgustaWestland chopper for Vasundhra Raje may end up throwing the government off gear.

According to a report published in The Economic Times, Rajasthan’s BJP-ruled government floated a tender on November 21 for a helicopter for Vasundhara Raje. The tender specified the government only wants AgustaWestland’s AW169 helicopter.  The tender doesn’t, as is the norm, specify performance criteria and seating capacity. It asks for AW169, therefore, making AgustaWestland the only company qualified to supply the helicopter.

Reportedly, the deal is estimated to be worth over Rs 50 crore.

The tender, entitled ‘Procurement of a factory new AW169 chopper under buyback of AW109E Power helicopter’, has led to protest letters from US’ Bell and European company Airbus, with them requesting a fair bidding process in which they can also participate.

“I do not have details but it (the tender) is under a buyback process in which the company has to purchase the helicopter (that) the state has. This can be replaced by a new helicopter from the same company, " said Arijeet Banerjee, secretary (information and public relations) in the Rajasthan government.

A report by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) suggests that in 2005, the state government incurred a  loss of Rs 1.14 crore owing to the government's decision to purchase the AW109 chopper.

However, Raje's officials insist there’s nothing wrong with their decision.

In 2010, the ruling UPA government signed a Rs 3,546 crore deal with Agusta Westland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica. The final deal agreed to buy 12 choppers meant to ferry VIP personnel. Three years later on February 12, 2013, Finmeccanica's Chairman Guiseppe Orsi was arrested over corruption charges. The arrest warrant charged him with paying bribes of Rs 360 crore to intermediaries to secure the sale of the helicopters to India when he was head of the group’s AgustaWestland unit.

The CBI too registered a case related to the AgustaWestland transaction where bribes were suspected to have been handed out to Indian officials to secure a contract to supply 12 helicopters to ferry top government officials including the President and Prime Minister.

Following Orsi’s arrest, India froze payments for the choppers, although it had already paid Rs 1,620 crore, 45% of the contract value, and accepted three helicopters.

Some important players in the VVIP chopper scam:

SP Tyagi: Last week CBI arrested former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi and questioned officials who were part of ex-prime minister Manmohan Singh’s office. In April this year, an Italian court in Milan had held that bribes were paid in securing the 2010 deal.

Docsa Tyagi, Sandeep Tyagi and Julie Tyagi: SP Tyagi’s cousins allegedly accepted illegal gratification for exercising influence through corrupt and or illegal means.

Gautam Khaitan: The facilitator who ED says eventually brought money to India through Mauritius route for payment of illegal gratification.

Guiseppe Orsi: Former Finmeccanica's Chairman Guiseppe Orsi was arrested over corruption charges and sentenced by the Milan appeals court to four-and-a-half years in jail for false accounting and corruption in the sale of VVIP choppers.

Bruno Spagnolini: CEO of AgustaWestland was sentenced to jail 4 years for false accounting and corruption in deals.

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