Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said in Rajya Sabha that no deal was struck between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi to free two Italian marines, who were accused of killing Indian fisherman, in exchange for information on the “Gandhi family” in relation to the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
Jaitley added the the investigation into the case was in an “advanced stage”.
Jaitley’s statement came after Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also Congress General Secretary, questioned whether such a deal was struck between Modi and Renzi.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha, Azad said: “Modi offered to free marines for information on Gandhi family.”
“AgustaWestland helicopter deal middleman might have stood by his sensational submission made to an international court that Indian Prime Minister had attempted to cut a deal on Italian marine issue with his counterpart Italian Prime Minister at a brush by meeting at UN in September 2015,” Azad said.
“According to him when the deal was struck between two Prime Ministers, pronouncement of judgment had come from that side and subsequently now the Indian government is allowing Italian marines to return home. So that means the deal has been struck. I would like to know from government whether such meeting has taken place,” he said.
The Congress leader also said that when “corrupt practice” related to the AgustaWestland deal, adding that United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government blacklisted the company, ordered probe by the CBI and ED and cancelled the deal.
“Government of India through court got the entire bank guarantee money back. We recovered the total advance money. Three helicopters had already come so we did not give them back,” he said.
Azad questioned why the current government allowed the blacklisted AgustaWestland to participate in Make in India.
Jaitley, however, said reports of Modi meeting Italian Prime Minister is totally false. He also took a dig at Congress saying that they have given clarification in advance as a member has given notice to raise the issue.
“Let me categorically say report in newspaper cited by leader of opposition is false and untrue in its entirety. There was no such meeting,” Jaitley said.
“That report that was intended to provide friends on the other side a possible basis of defence doesn’t exist. The principal issue is that there was a defence transaction, and in the defence transaction there is alleged bribe payment. The bribe giver has been convicted the identity of the bribe taker has to be established,” Jaitley said.
“The bribe giver at the time when the conspiracy was being executed has made some written admissions. The relevance of those admissions have to be examined by investigation agencies,” he said.