Former Defence Minister AK Antony today acknowledged corruption in the AgustaWestland chopper deal but said the then UPA dispensation had done no wrong and asked the government to take strong action against those involved without threatening or blackmailing Congress leaders.
He said the previous NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had changed the parameters required for acquiring the helicopters for VVIPs.
“Don’t try to create doubts, you will not succeed. Don’t politicise, you will repent. If you have all evidence, take strong action. But don’t threaten and don’t blackmail,” he said while participating in short duration discussion on the AugustaWestland issue in Rajya Sabha.
Making a spirited defence of the actions of the UPA government, he read out an official release of the Ministry of Defence issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on February 14, 2013, listing steps taken by him as Defence Minister after allegations of corruption surfaced.
“It is proved beyond doubt there is corruption. There is Italy judgement. All legal hurdles are over, you have to act,” he said.
Asking the government to conduct the case successfully, Antony said, “You have to first speed up arbitration proceedings. …Now, corruption is proved and we can get thousands of crores as compensation.”
He asked the government to take action against the company which gave money and “take action against takers whoever they may be”.
Antony also made a strong plea for immediate ban on companies concerned. “You immediately ban these companies for 10 years. Do it as quickly as possible.”
He said that since AugustaWestland has been held as a “corrupt company” by Italian courts, don’t involve them in the Make in India projects. “If they are there, remove them. Don’t cover up. Don’t politicise.”
Antony claimed that the decision to change the flying altitude from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres was taken by then PMO and NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003.
“The decision to change height was taken by the PMO. It was taken during that time. The major decision was taken by your government in 2003,” he said.