In a second official statement in two days, the government will said it not leave any stone unturned in finding the truth. The statement did not name the Congress, but gave point by point rebuttal of allegations made by the opposition party, which was in power when the scam took place.
“The investigative agencies remain determined to bring to justice the key perpetrators of this misdeed, both inside and outside the country,” said the statement by the information and broadcasting ministry, adding that all means are being pursued to arrest alleged middleman James Christian Michel. The first statement had been issued by the defence ministry.
Extradition requests have been made to Britain for Michel by both the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, it said.
“The investigative agencies will stay their course in unveiling the corrupt and holding them accountable to our public,” it added.
Defending the national security advisor, the statement said: “A few have even sought to link one of the accused with Ajit Doval, present NSA, as also Nripendra Mishra, principal secretary to the prime minister. This is a totally baseless assertion, devoid of reason and logic, and indicative of malicious intent. In reality, there is no such connection.”
Congress had noted that Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, who was heading the IAF when the scam happened and has had his name come in the case, is a part of the Vivekananda International Foundation with which Doval and Mishra are also associated, and questioned their connection.
The statement also defended the Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan governments, as the Congress had alleged that chief ministers of both BJP-ruled states were indicted by CAG in purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters.
On Congress’s charge on why no action was taken on an alleged offer made by Michel to be questioned by CBI and ED including on Indian soil, the statement said: “It is well known that any understanding/agreement with an accused outside the frame of law is a criminal act in itself.
“James Christian Michel is a criminal wanted by the Indian law enforcement agencies. We are pursuing all legal means to arrest him and have him extradited to India. Mr. Michel should submit himself to the Indian legal system rather than make elliptical references to offers that are suspect in intent and reality….”
“Those who cannot see the prime minister succeed even hint at him cutting a deal. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Prime Minister Modi did not cut any deal of any sort….”
In what seemed to a reply to Congress’ allegation that the government did not do anything in the case for two years, the statement said the CBI has so far investigated over 100 witnesses and in September and November 2014, couple of accused have been arrested and their property attached.
On why AgustaWestland was allowed to participate in a bid for naval helicopters last year, it said the navy has hosted a request for information and no request for proposal was issued.
The government statement also added that all procurement or acquisitions from AgustaWestland or its subsidiaries have been put on hold since July 3, 2014, but without letting this affect defence preparedness.
The statement stressed that “corruption” is the central issue, a point the defence ministry statement also made on Thursday.
“…the undisputed central issue that stands out is corruption, especially bribery. Any other line of assumption, approach and effort, as is being attempted in some quarters, is misleading, tries to hide the wrong-doers and is driven by instincts of self preservation,” it said, calling it “tragic” that “a small section of the Indian polity has attempted, unsuccessfully, to divert and diffuse the public discourse on this matter”.