The top brass of the CBI and the defence ministry are in a quandary. For, they have to investigate the roles of the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) and the defence secretary in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
Both were holding key positions when the deal was finalised with Italian defence giant Finmeccanica in 2010. AgustaWestland is its subsidiary.
In February 2010, when the contract was signed, Pradeep Kumar, the present CVC, was the defence secretary and Shashikant Sharma, the defence secretary, was the director general (acquisition) in the ministry. Since both had direct administrative involvement, their statements will be “crucial”, a CBI officer said.
“Though they were not involved in the decision-making process related to the tweaking of technical specifications in 2006, they endorsed the deal,” he said.
Kumar, a Haryana cadre IAS officer (1972), was the defence secretary from 2009 to 2011. As DG (acquisition) Sharma, a Bihar cadre IAS officer (1976), was the head of all purchases and procurements by the defence ministry.
Defence minister AK Antony on Tuesday admitted to lapses in tackling corruption in defence deals. “We have taken all precautions but in spite of that, it is clear that something happened somewhere,” he said. “No mercy for the guilty.”
The ministry has sent AK Bal, joint secretary (air acquisition), to Italy to assist and monitor the investigations. He is expected to submit his findings once he returns on February 21.
The CBI is in the process of seizing all documents related to the chopper deal from the defence ministry and the air force. A joint team of CBI and ministry officials landed in Italy on Tuesday. The CBI will take the help of an Italian advocate to understand the country’s laws before presenting India’s case in local courts there.
The CBI team will also look into the possibility of kickbacks being routed to dubious companies.