New Delhi

India parliament committee starts Finmeccanica 'graft' probe

Suspected bribes in AgustaWestland copter deal under scrutiny

India parliament committee starts Finmeccanica 'graft' probe

New Delhi, February 27 - India's Senate agreed Wednesday to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate a scandal-plagued helicopter contract with a division of Italy's Finmeccanica defence giant. A motion to set up the commission was hotly debated, after Defence Minister A.K. Antony threatened to severely punish those responsible for alleged corruption in the $750 million US contract for 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland. Opposition politicians in India's Senate accused the government of using the commission to delay dealing with the matter. In response, Antony said he would "black-list" any companies violating anti-corruption laws. "No one will be spared," he said. Earlier this month, AgustaWestland said that it was cooperating with the Indian military in its investigation of an allegedly tainted helicopter contract for the purchase of 12 AW-101 helicopters, now linked to accusations of bribery. Those accusations led to the resignation and arrest of Finmeccanica chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi earlier this month, and to a threat to completely cancel the purchase contract by the Indian government. India has already taken the initial steps to cancel the helicopter contract. It froze payments on the units, two of which have been delivered and one on the way, pending the results of the corruption probe. India's defence ministry also said it had asked Finmeccanica's new CEO, Alessandro Pansa, for any information he might be able to provide on suspected bribes. Finmeccanica is Italy's biggest defence contractor and a major world player, employing some 70,000 people.

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