The arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Italian aerospace company Finmeccanica that manufactures AugustaWestland helicopters, reminds us that defence deals continue to remain shady. Orsi was arrested on charges that the state-run Finmeccanica paid bribes in different countries, including India. In 2010, a Rs4,000 crore deal was signed for the supply of 12 AugustaWestland choppers for VVIP duty.
For the Congress, questions about bribes related to defence deals bring back painful memories about the Bofors scandal that saw the Rajiv Gandhi government ousted from power in 1989. That this deal concerns an Italian firm will add to the Congress’ discomfiture because it won’t take long for a political party to highlight the fact that the firm is based in the Congress president’s country of origin.
The concern is that corruption charges continue to surface with sickening frequency. The charges against Finmeccanica came a few weeks after allegations emerged that Walmart paid bribes to get Delhi to permit multi-brand retail chains.
If any of the allegations with regard to the Finmeccanica or Walmart cases are true, the culprits must be booked and tried in court. The agenda of liberalisation is at risk should people suspect that contracts and investments are based on kickbacks rather than what is best for the country. As the father of liberalisation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must show that corruption has no role in India’s economic progress.