VVIP chopper scam: 8 things to know ahead of the Parliament debate

AgustaWestland AW101 (Source: PTI)
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said that he will place all facts along with a detailed chronology about the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal before Parliament on Wednesday. He is expected to speak in the Rajya Sabha at 2 pm. 

Parliament is set for another stormy session, given that Parrikar has, directly contradicting Congress' claim, challenged the party to show that the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government ordered the blacklisting of the AgustaWestland company. Parrikar has also claimed that it was the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government that blacklisted the company.

Here are the top developments in the VVIP chopper deal:

1) Gunning for Gandhi: In the last week of April, citing media reports on a recent judgement by the Italian Court of Appeals, the BJP upped the ante against the Congress as it claimed that documents related to the judgement had named Gandhi as the "driving force" behind the contract.

2) Gandhi hits back: Denying the charges a day after the political fight started, Gandhi said: "I am not afraid as there is no base. All the allegation are false. This government is there from last two years, why is the government not completing enquiry.... Complete inquiry impartially, truth will come out."

3) Enter Subramanian Swamy: On the same day, BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy raised the issue of the chopper scam in the Rajya Sabha through an adjournment notice and referred to the allegations about Sonia Gandhi made by Christian Michel, the middleman in the deal, in a letter in the High Court of Italy.

Swamy's remarks escalated the fight, and Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that Swamy was being used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi "for his muckraking agenda".

4) The judge speaks: There is no evidence linking Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the chopper scam, Judge Marco Maigo, the president of the Court of Appeals in Italy and the judge who pronounced and signed the 225-page judgement in the scam, told NewsX television channel on Tuesday.

5) Who blacklisted AgustaWestland: As April came to an end, the government claimed that the UPA administration had not blacklisted AgustaWestland despite allegations of bribery and that it was only when the NDA came to power in 2014 that all acquisition proposals with the firm were put on hold.

The allegations came after Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma claimed that the UPA had blacklisted the involved company.

6) Former IAF chief Tyagi in the crosshairs: On Monday and Tuesday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) examined former Indian Air force chief SP Tyagi in connection with alleged corruption in the deal. He is likely to be questioned again on Wednesday by the agency.

Additionally, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also issued summons for Tyagi. The focus on Tyagi has heightened after the Italian court cited him as one of the Indian officials involved in the bribery case.

7) Not your garden variety FDI: According to the Economic Times, part of the amount paid as kickbacks in the alleged scam was repatriated to the country in the form of foreign direct investment (FDI). The ED, the report said, has found "a web of companies" meant to "route" Rs 37 crore to Indian entities. The report added that these shell companies were based out of Mauritius and Tunisia.  

8) Rahul Gandhi's aide: BJP leader Kirit Somaiya alleged that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's one-time aide and Emaar-MGF director Kanishk Singh had a role in the chopper scam. Somaiya has alleged that Rahul Gandhi and Kanishk were connected to Guido Haschke, one of the middlemen in the deal.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel