Antony warns against arms deal corruption

Antony warns against arms deal corruption
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First Published: Wed, May 27 2009. 10 44 PM IST
Updated: Wed, May 27 2009. 10 44 PM IST
New Delhi: India’s defence minister on Wednesday said arms firms trying to bribe their way into big-ticket defence contracts will be “ruthlessly” excluded from the country’s huge weapons acquisition programme.
India plans to spend $30 billion (around Rs1.43 trillion) by 2012 on arms purchases.
“At times, we found certain manipulations and malpractices. We cannot ignore that so we ruthlessly cancelled big ticket items,” defence minister A.K. Antony told reporters. “We will ruthlessly cancel contracts in the future also as in the past. This is not a happy experience but we will be forced to take such action.”
In December 2007, the Indian Air Force scrapped a $600 million deal for 197 helicopters after allegations of corruption in the bidding process.
The deal had been awarded to Eurocopter, the helicopter unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS), which makes civil and military aircraft, in February 2007.
Eurocopter denied Indian media allegations about the involvement of middlemen in the project.
Another deal for 22 attack helicopters was scrapped in March, on the grounds that the firms in the race had failed to meet contractual parameters. Indian defence sources, however, said there were suspicions of irregularities in bidding for the $550 million contract.
India banned middlemen in military deals following allegations of bribery in an artillery deal in the 1980s with Swedish firm Bofors. That scandal led to the downfall of the government of Congress prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.
“While we are determined to speed up procurement, we cannot compromise on transparency,” Antony said.
Meanwhile, India expects to evaluate jets made by Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Dassault Aviation SA and others in two-three months as the government moves to decide on the world’s biggest fighter plane order in play.
India’s plan to buy 126 jets worth $11 billion, is contested by six companies, and is the biggest fighter-plane order in 15 years, according to Chicago-based Boeing.
Bloomberg contributed to this story.
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First Published: Wed, May 27 2009. 10 44 PM IST