After the stunning revelations made by one of the prime accused in the AgustaWestland case, BJP lawmaker Ravi Shankar Prasad has slammed the Congress party over its alleged involvement in the high-profile defence deal scam.
“Why is it that the name of Congress leaders prop up every time we talk about a defence-related scam? And they never fail to disappoint. Is this how the party is playing with the national security of the country? Be it a Bofors scandal or Jeep scam. They did not even procure bullet-proof vests for our soldiers but we did. And these helicopters were procured for the Prime Minister and the President. However, even kickbacks were received in such high-profile cases. The BJP demands answers from the Congress party. The country has awakened (to the irregularities in the Agusta Westland case)”, he stated while addressing a press conference on Tuesday.
Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that the country has been demanding an answer from Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Wayanad MP and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders in connection to the case. “The name of several Congress leaders have surfaced in the case. Denial won’t work anymore,” he added. The Union Law Minister read out the statement of key accused Rajiv Saxena about how Kamal Nath’s son Bakul Nath wanted to cover up the scam. “This is a serious matter and the Congress party has to answer”, he emphasised.
Ravi Shankar Prasad had added that the handler Rajiv Saxena has been at the helm of managing kickbacks in several other cases such as the Pilatus deal. He has alleged that the main accused Sanjay Bhandari has connections with several Congress leaders and family members of the Gandhi dynasty. “Was it necessary to loot in the defence deal? No defence deal without kickbacks, loot and some Congress leader becoming the beneficiary”, the Union law Minister reiterated.
The AgustaWestland Scam
India had signed a deal in 2010 under the UPA regime to buy 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the service of the Prime Minister, the President and other VVIPs. It is alleged that some politicians and public servants had abused their official positions to reduce the service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6000 metres to 4500 metres to make AgustaWestland eligible for the contract and had awarded the contract for an amount of Euro 556.262 million in 2010. The deal was cancelled in 2013 after the scam was revealed.
Key Congress leaders named in AgustaWestland Case
One of the prime accused turned approver in the AgustaWestland scam, Rajiv Saxena, has named key Congress leaders and their relatives over alleged involvement in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam. In his interrogation in connection with the scam, Saxena named senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, Kamal Nath’s son Bakul Nath and Sonia Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel. Saxena, who was picked up by UAE government security agencies in Dubai and later extradited to India on January 30, 2019, and who later turned approver, was interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate, which attached his assets worth Rs 385 crore. The ED has now approached the apex court to revoke the approver status of Rajiv Saxena for not revealing the complete disclosure of facts in the case.
According to Saxena’s deposition, which was accessed by Indian Express, along with other important documents such as copies of bank statements, accounts of offshore companies, and email communication between key stakeholders, he had allegedly admitted to carrying out several hawala transactions and setting up a complex web of offshore structures for the co-accused. The most essential part of Saxena’s statement involves how the alleged kickbacks of the Agusta Westland deal, which was later cancelled by the UPA II government, ran through two companies—Saxena’s Interstellar Technologies and Global Services—owned by Christian Michel, who was extradited to India in December 2018 and remains in jail.