NEW DELHI: Seeking to drag BJP into the raging chopper row, Swaraj Abhiyan today accused the Chhattisgarh Government of floating a global tender in a "shady manner" to purchase a specific AgustaWestland helicopter by paying "over 30 percent" commission without exploring options.
Addresing a media conference here, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, accused the Raman Singh government in the state of paying USD 1.57 million as commission to a company registered in tax-haven British Virginia Islands to procure the chopper.
The two also sought to link Chief Minister Raman Singh's son to the controversy saying Abhishek formed a company called Quest Heights Ltd on July 3, 2008 almost six months after the bulk of the payment was made by the state government to Sharp Ocean, an agent company.
Welcoming the NDA Government's "earnestness" to probe the matter, the leaders sought an enquiry to be initiated into the deal finalised by the state government by a former judge to be recommended by Chief Justice of India.
"It was pretended that the (state) government floated a global tender, while it was (specifically) written in the tender which model was to be purchased.
"And the bids interestingly were received from AgustaWestland, its commission agent and its service provider itself. And based on that the contract was finalised," Bhushan said.
He added, "The contract invoice shows the cost of the helicopter was only 5.1 million dollar, which was paid to AgustaWestland and 1.57 million dollar commission was given to commission agent Sharp Ocean based in British Virgin island."
Raman Singh refuted the charges levelled by Swaraj Abhiyan, saying they were politically motivated and an attempt by Bhushan to "deflect" the issue from the larger corruption angle in the main AgustaWestland chopper deal.
Addressing a news conference in Raipur tonight, he said the CAG in its audit report for the year ended March 31, 2011, had only pointed out that failure of the state's Aviation Department to finalise the first offer for purchase of Agusta A-109 within the due date and its subsequent procurement at higher rate had led to extra expenditure of Rs 65 lakh.
BJP spokesman Sudhanshu Trivedi said the Chief Minister has clarified the allegations raised by Swaraj Abhiyan.
Equipped with a bunch of documents, which they said were procured under RTI, the two leaders said the state government on December 19, 2006 decided to purchase a VIP chopper as the existing one required lot of maintenance.
"Amazingly within three days, a meeting took place between representatives of one OSS, supposedly the service provider of AgustaWestland helicopters, in which it made a presentation to the government about Agusta 109 Helicopter and made an offer to supply this helicopter at USD 6.31 million," Bhushan said.
He alleged the discussion was followed by "some correspondence" with the company, which told the Chattisgarh government that if it was to buy helicopter directly from AgustaWestland, then it would have to wait for more than two years and therefore, it should deal with its dealer/distributor Sharp Ocean based in Hong Kong.
He further said that the company is registered in British Virgin Islands, which may be able to supply a pre-sold Helicopter earlier.
A fortnight ago, the Chhattisgarh Government had refuted Congress charges in this regard, dubbing them as "politically motivated".
"The allegations levelled by Congress are baseless.
The helicopter deal was done through a global tendering process while maintaining full transparency," Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Ajay Chandrakar had said.
At the Congress briefing, party spokesman Jairam Ramesh, too, cliamed the Chhattisgarh government was "totally involved" in the AgustaWestland scam.
He alleged Abhishek Singh, son of the Chief Minister, is "somewhere linked" to this scam. His name has also figured in the Panama papers, he claimed.
This New is Originally Posted on The New Indian Express.