The Defence Ministry will decide the fate of the controversial Rs 6,000 crore deal to procure 197 light choppers which has been on hold due to an ongoing CBI probe into charges that a Brigadier had sought bribe from AgustaWestland to help it bag the contract.
During a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) scheduled this week, the Defence Ministry will also discuss deals worth around Rs 15,000 crore for procuring Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavylift choppers for the IAF from the US, Defence Ministry officials said.
The DAC, headed by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, is scheduled to take up the deal for discussion in its meeting where it is expected to decide its fate, they said. The 197 light utility choppers are to be procured for the Army and the IAF who use them for ferrying troops and supplies in high altitude areas such as Siachen Glacier and would be used to replace the vintage Cheetah/Chetak choppers which were inducted 40 years ago.
CBI has been probing allegations against the Brigadier which surfaced during investigations into the VVIP chopper deal about the alleged involvement of AgustaWestland in paying kickbacks to secure the Indian contract for 12 VVIP choppers.
CBI probe was ordered by the Defence Ministry after the Army requested it to investigate the charges against the Brigadier before taking any decision on the future developments in the deal. Allegations have been levelled against the Brigadier in a letter allegedly sent by an AgustaWestland official in India to his superiors in Italy saying the officer was seeking $5 million for facilitating the deal in their favour.
Only two firms European Eurocopter and Russian Kamov are left in the race for the deal to supply 197 light choppers to the Army and the IAF as AgustaWestland was knocked out of the deal in the preliminary stages itself.
The deal for procuring 197 light choppers has already been cancelled once in 2007 in the last stages. The Brigadier has denied the charges made against him.