ANGLING AGUSTA BIG FISH A MUST
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar said emphatically in an interview given to India Today TV that he would not let big fish in the Agusta scam escape. It was not mud- slinging but an honest endeavour to fathom the depth of the multi- million dollar kickback received by both big and small people. He refrained from naming the accused persons saying that it was the job of the investigating agencies. He, however, said that the investigators were at it and as the Defence Minister it was his job to provide relevant papers and he would do that.
When the interviewer of India Today TV mentioned some names of eminent politicians who could be motivating the officials to veer the deal to benefit Agusta Westland, the Raksha Mantri steered clear of the name game saying that his statement on the issue might colour the vision of the investigators. Of course, at one point in the short and sweet interview the Defence Minister did mention that the investigators were on the right track.
Manohar Parrikar explained that the accusative finger of some people at the two-year delay by the present NDA government in pursuing the case was not founded on facts. The trial court in Italy had absolved the Italian dealers and middle men of criminality in the deal in giving hefty bribes. Late the Italian Court of Appeal went into depth and ordered jail terms for persons involved in giving bribes. As far as takers of bribes were concerned, the Italian High Court chose not to go into it as further investigation delving into depth was required and that fell in the domain of the Indian authorities. Thus there was no deliberate delay on the part of the present Government of India in pursuing the case.
Did Justice Marco Mario Maiga, who delivered the judgement of the Court of Appeal, give a clean chit to Sonia Gandhi and other bigwigs of the Congress party and absolve them of any criminal intent or mens rea to harm the Indian State and cause undue gain to the Italian arms dealers, the answer is a big NO. In an interview to the Times Today TV channel of Mumbai, Justice Maiga was of the opinion that it was for the Indian administration to further investigate and take appropriate action. Thus there was no acquittal with honour of any Indian politician, bureaucrat or defence personnel by the Italian Court of Appeal as the matter fell outside their jurisdiction.
It is pertinent to note here that two high ranking Indian officials, BV Wanchoo and MK Narayanan who were holding constitutional posts resigned because the Criminal Bureau of Investigation had interrogated them as witnesses in the Agusta scandal. Of course, the two gentlemen were intimately connected with the said deal in their capacity as head of the Special Protection Group and National Security Advisor respectively. Will the investigation in depth lead to some more resignations of people who were rewarded by the UPA government for their subservient role in pushing the helicopter deal towards one and one dealer alone of Italian origin.
The murky dealings of the then officials of Defence, Bureaucrats, Politicians in compromising the security of the country by lowering the high standard of Qualification Requirement just to suit the Agusta Westland helicopter company are unpardonable. Two glaring examples of gross dereliction of duty to the Nation are lowering the altitude the helicopter was required to operate at from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters and raising the ceiling of the cabin to eight meters or so just to suit the single dealer from Italy by excluding other dealers. The elevation of 6,000 meters was essential to protect the VVIP cargo of the helicopter so that it was beyond the range of shoulder-held missiles. It may be recalled that the helicopters were being bought for the travel of the President,the Prime Minister of India and others of great importance.
It is indeed shocking to note that at the instance of some influential big shots the field trials of the helicopter from the Italian company were held on a different machine and not on the one that the Indian Air Force wished to buy. It was an absolute travesty of Truth and the beneficiaries were the Italian dealers, Indian Air Force boss, middle men of Italian origin now in jail, not forgetting bureaucrats rewarded for misplaced loyalty by positioning them where long arms of law found it difficult to reach.
The point to note here is that someone highly placed in the Indian political hierarchy who was so influential that officials dared not disobey the person without putting their service interests at peril. One may further note that the dealers are from Italy and who else could be promoting their business interests except a highly placed person from Italy. Needless to say again that it is for the Indian investigative agencies to dive deep and dig out the Truth lying mired in the jigsaw puzzle of untruth. The political and economic labyrinth of transfer of huge amounts of kickback money is difficult to travel through and indeed will take a lot of time to go to Mauritius and some African ports. The bribe givers of Italy, now in the Italian jail, covered their tacks with the ingenuity and expertise of a hardened criminal. Therefore, it is taking time to uncover and make the case against bribe takers foolproof so that it stands the scrutiny of the Indian courts of law.
Two maxims are quite relevant in this context. The first one is: however high you may ever be, the law is above you; and the second is: Every person is presumed to be innocent unless proved guilty. We all are guided by the Law of the land.
Before parting with this brief review, it would be pertinent to note that the Court of Appeal of Italy was constrained to record that the Government of India (read the UPA government headed by the Congress party) did not cooperate with the Court. The relevant documents were not submitted except three.
It may be safely surmised that the parties concerned with the helicopter deal, both Indian and Italian, have been economical with Truth in the past proceedings. Now that the case has got a fresh impetus under the present NDA government, it is hoped that some tangible results would be seen and the guilty be put behind bars.