Congress lies busted: UPA govt did not blacklist AgustaWestland, Modi govt did and never withdrew the blacklisting

AgustaWestland did not bid in the Navy helicopter tender, contrary to claims by Congress party

After the Enforcement Directorate told a court that Christian Michael, the middleman in AgustaWestland AW101 deal, has named some “Mrs Gandhi”, “the son of the Italian lady”, the Congress party is scrambling to protect the “family”. And the party is trying to do that with the only weapon they have nowadays, lies.

Briefing the media, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that UPA government had blacklisted AgustaWestland, and Modi government removed the company from blacklisting on 22 August 2014. He also said that the AgustaWestland was given FIPB approval for FDI by the Modi government. Surjewala also said that Modi government allowed AgustaWestland to participate in the bid for navy helicopters.

Every sentence in the above para is a lie, and this is not the first time Congress is making these allegations. They have been alleging these for the last two years.

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Let’s take them one by one.

Did UPA government blacklist AgustaWestland?

Congress party has been claiming for a long time that they blacklisted AgustaWestland company.

But the reality is, they did not. Although the UPA II government cancelled the VVIP chopper deal with the company, ordered a CBI investigation and recovered the money already paid, it did not blacklist the company. On 5 February 2014, then defence minister AK Antony had informed the Rajya Sabha that “no decision has been taken till date to debar the said company”.

The Finmeccanica group of companies, including the AgustaWestland, was blacklisted on 3 July 2014, means it was done by the Modi government.

The order dated 03/07/2014 blacklisting Finmeccanica including Agusta Westland
The order dated 03/07/2014 blacklisting Finmeccanica including Agusta Westland

Did Modi government withdraw the blacklisting of AgustaWestland?

It is an absolute lie that the companies blacklisting was withdrawn by the government. On August 2 this year, the defence ministry had released a list giving detail of companies debarred and suspended from doing business with the ministry of defence. And in this release, the list of suspended companies includes AgustaWestland and Leonardo S.p.A., into which Finmeccanica was merged in 2016, and four other group companies. Which means that the companies are still blacklisted. In the same list, it is clearly mentioned the companies were blacklisted on 3 July 2014.

Finmeccanica & group cos are still blacklisted
Defence ministry note dated 02/08/2018 informs that Finmeccanica & group cos are still blacklisted

Surjewala said that on 22 August 2014, Modi government whitelisted AgustaWestland, which is not true. The order issued by Defence Ministry’s vigilance department makes some modifications to the order blacklisting the company, it does not withdraw the blacklisting.

22/08/2014 order clarifies that Finmeccanica & group companies are barred from ongoing and future defence deals
22/08/2014 order clarifies that Finmeccanica & group companies are barred from ongoing and future defence deals

The order, shown above, says that if there are any contracts with Finmeccanica group companies which are already under execution, or already have been executed but only regular maintenance etc are needed, such deals can continue. But Finmeccanica and its group companies cannot be provided tender papers for bidding in defence deals, if it has already submitted tender that will not be considered, and even if it has been declared as the lowest bidder in a tender, such procurement process will be put on hold. This order makes it clear that Finmeccanica and its group companies can’t participate in ongoing and future deals, only past deals can continue. It can be noted that there were no past deals with the company, with the VVIP helicopter deal cancelled.

Did Modi government give FIPB approval for FDI by AgustaWestland in India?

An FDI proposal by AgustaWestland to set up a joint venture with Tata Sons was approved by the government of India on 2nd September 2011, when UPA was in power, not Modi. It is important to note that this was a completely private sector deal, and not linked to VVIP chopper or any other deal by the defence ministry. A defence company blacklisted by defence ministry means it can’t participate in defence ministry deals, it is free to do other business subject to fulfilling norms. The JV with Tata, known as Indian Rotorcraft, was for AW119Ke helicopter, which is a civilian utility helicopter. The foreign investor in the JV was AgustaWestland, the Netherlands. But as it later merged with AgustaWestland, Italy, they had submitted an application with the FIPB to change the company’s name to AgustaWestland S.p.A, Italy, and they also wanted to change the helicopter to be made in India to AW119Kx, an upgraded version. In 2015, these changes were granted by the Modi government, but the original FDI proposal was already approved during the UPA government.

Did Modi government allow AgustaWestland to participate in the tender for Navy helicopters?

In August 2012, Indian Navy had issued Request for Proposal (RFP) for Naval Utility Helicopters, and AgustaWestland was one of the companies that had submitted their techno-commercial proposal in March 2013, during UPA government, when the VVIP chopper scam was already known and the Indian government had already started investigations. After coming to power, the RFP was scrapped by the Modi government, as it was decided that the helicopters will be manufactured in India under make in India program.

In August 2017, the government issued Request for Information for the purchase of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters, along with 123 naval multirole helicopters. The RFI was sent to Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter of U.S., Airbus Helicopters of France, and Russian Helicopters of Russia. Several Indian companies submitted their bids with proposed joint ventures with these companies, and AgustaWestland did not submit any bid for the contract.

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