"Nothing to hide" in helicopter deal, India's PM says

Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:26am EST
 
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By Frank Jack Daniel

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday his government had nothing to hide in a $750 million deal for AgustaWestland helicopters that the defense ministry is threatening to cancel over allegations of kickbacks.

The ministry has asked AgustaWestland, owned by Italy's Finmeccanica SIFI.MI, to show by Friday that no bribes were paid in the deal or face cancellation of the order.

AgustaWestland has said it will comply with the request to provide clarification within seven days.

The case, which escalated last week with the arrest of Finmeccanica head Giuseppe Orsi, is putting pressure on India's government and has become a political issue in Italy less than a week from a general election.

India has already received three of the 12 helicopters it bought to transport political leaders.

In his first comments on the affair since the arrest of Orsi, who has since been replaced at Finmeccanica, Singh said the Indian government wanted to debate the issue in parliament, which begins a new session on Wednesday.

"Parliament is the appropriate forum to discuss all issues raised by the opposition. We are ready for any discussion," Singh told reporters. "We have nothing to hide."

The furor over the helicopter deal follows a string of graft cases that have buffeted Singh's government, which faces elections due by early 2014. The opposition is expected to raise the issue once parliament opens.   Continued...

 
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during the meeting of the 57th National Development Council (NDC) in New Delhi December 27, 2012. REUTERS/B Mathur