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SC reserves order on Agusta copter purchase


IANS New Delhi
The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopter for VIPs in 2006-07 and the foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to the son of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh.
A division bench of Justice A.K. Goel and Justice U.U. Lalit reserved the order after hearing arguments from the Chhattisgarh government and petitioners NGO Swaraj Abhiyan and T.S. Singhdeo, the Leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh Assembly.
The court said it was concerned whether any "fraud" was committed while purchasing a VIP AgustaWestland helicopter.
"What is the interest of Abhishek Singh, who also happens to be the son of the Chief Minister, in this? You have to satisfy us on that," the bench said.
The court also told the state that: "We are not saying why did you purchase this helicopter and not (any) other. But if there is a doubt about any financial fraud that you have to explain."
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing Chhattisgarh state, denied the allegations, calling them "reckless".
He added that it was a "politically motivated petition" and filed to maligned the reputation as elections were due in Chhattisgarh.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, told the bench that a bank account in the name of Abhishak Singh was opened in July 2008 in British Virgin Islands, and on August 1, 2008, one of the firms which was purportedly involved in the deal was wound up.
He alleged that there was a strong possibility that the money paid as commission in this deal has ultimately reached the foreign bank account.
Bhushan added that a proposal of the state in December 2006 said that there should be open bid to purchase helicopter and helicopter firms should be invited but no company was called and a tender was issued only for a AgustaWestland chopper.
An extra amount of $1.324 million was paid to a firm, Sharp Ocean, over and above the cost of the helicopter which was $5.246 million, said Bhushan.
While Chhattisgarh paid $6.57 million for the purchase of the helicopter, Jharkhand paid $5.591 million for the chopper bought at the same time.
He also told the court that the documents received under the RTI show that although the Bell helicopter was denied a bid, the government was still hiring it on rent.
The Chhattisgarh government, however, told the court that there was nothing wrong in the bid and that at present 24 AgustaWestland helicopters were flying in the country.
The state said it needed night fly chopper with four persons sitting capacity and low maintenance cost, and Agusta helicopter was best option at the time.

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First Published: Jan 31 2018 | 8:12 PM IST

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