The AgustaWestland chopper deal is back in the limelight. The 3,600 crore deal to purchase 12 helicopters for ferrying VIPs in 2010 is back to fore after a court is Milan found two executives guilty last month. The issue, which relates to suspected bribery, has become a point of contention between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress party. A timeline of events:

1999

· The then NDA government approves the procurement of eight VIP helicopters.

2003

· In a meeting with the then principal secretary, the operational altitude for the choppers was reduced to 4,500 metres and the cabin height to 1.8.

2005

· The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government then in power increased the number of choppers from 8 to 12. Four were added for non-VIP travel.

2010

· The UPA government enters into a 3,546 crore deal with AgustaWestland to ferry VIPs.

2012

· First three of 12 helicopters arrive in India.

· Initial reports of kickback appear in the media.

2013

· In February, Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi is arrested for alleged payoffs by the Italian police.

· The central bureau of investigation (CBI) begins inquiry into alleged kickbacks. The inquiry included former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi among suspects.

· The Enforcement Directorate begins probing the chopper deal.

· The Indian Express in March 2013 reports that the contracts show that millions of euros were paid to alleged middlemen Christian Michel and Guido Haschke for the deal, through banks in Dubai, Italy and Switzerland. Italian investigators have referred to these contracts, among others, to allege that kickbacks worth at least 10% of the 3,546 crore deal were paid.

· The UPA government moves a motion in Parliament to form a joint parliamentary committee to inquire the bribe allegations.

· The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) sends its draft report to the government for comments.

· Government initiates the process of terminating the contract with Agusta Westland.

2014

In October, a lower court in Italy acquits Tyagi and Orsi of corruption charges.

2016

The Milan court of Appeals, in its 8 April judgement, says that the contract involved pay-offs to Indian officials and finds two executives of AgustaWestland guilty of offering bribes.

On 28 April, the NDA government corners the Congress party in Parliament demanding to know which of its leaders had benefitted from the helicopter deal that was scrapped after allegations of bribery surfaced in Italy.

On 4 May, the Rajya Sabha takes up discussion on the chopper deal. In his address, defence minister Manohar Parrikar assures the House that the government is investigating the alleged pay-offs in the scam.

On 6 May, the Lok Sabha discusses the scam. Parrikar says the government will track down beneficiaries of suspected irregularities in the award of the contract. Congress members stage a walkout.

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