The BJP on Tuesday targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former defence minister A.K. Antony in the AgustaWestland chopper deal. The Modi government alleged that Gandhi’s name cropped up four times in an Italian court judgment that observes bribes were indeed paid to Indian authorities to secure the $530 million contract. Denying the allegation, the Congress threatened legal action for defamation.
While the defence minister was asked to clarify if any Congress leader was involved in accepting bribe in the $750 million AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, but Antony noted that it was his government that had cancelled the deal and ordered a probe.
“The Milan Court of Appeals in its judgment has said that bribe was paid by AgustaWestland to Indian officials to get the contract for the supply of 12 AW101 choppers. The 225-page judgment on page 193 mentions Sonia Gandhi’s name, apart from other places,” said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman Sambit Patra.
The Congress, however, vehemently denied the charges, saying that the judgment, neither directly nor indirectly, says that Gandhi was a beneficiary of the kickbacks and threatened legal action for defaming their top leader.
“This kind of baseless, defamatory allegations are made and I reserve to myself the right to take all appropriate action and defamation law as well. There is no finding – prima facie interim or final, tentative or otherwise – by any Italian court remotely suggesting that money was paid or taken,” said Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
However, Patra said that the truth could not be brushed under the carpet through threats of legal action.
“A supposed video footage of Sonia Gandhi taking the money and putting it in the locker could not be the only concrete evidence. The legal procedure and the courts have other ways to establish a person’s guilt,” he said.
Singhvi dismissed the allegations saying: “What is being bandied around are unsigned internal documents which have not been adjudicated, which have not been decided, which are not part of any finding in any judgment of the lowest court.”