Where Do Threads of Earlier Westland Helicopter Purchase Scandal Lead ?
Investigating authorities are hot on the heals of the powers-that-be in the infamous Augusta Westland deal which cost the Indian government Rs. 4737 Crores for buying notorious helicopters. Everyone seems to know who is involved. It is only a matter of time before the law catches up with the criminals, both in Italy and in India.
Now David Pallister of Exaronews is closely following an earlier scandal related to Westland Helicopters and the Indian Government. This earlier helicopter purchase was made in 1986 when Sonia Gandhi’s husband Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. Rajiv Gandhi government bought 21 helicopters known as “Wobbly Westland W30s” in 1986 when the entire fleet of W30s was already grounded and did not have any airworthiness certificate. India purchased this already “condemned” model for GBP 65 million (about Rs. 673 crores) in 1986 for “transporting oil-rig workers”. Not surprisingly the helicopters started breaking down right away and the entire fleet was grounded within four years of delivery. Tragically two helicopters crashed killing 10 people. Even in the UK the scandal concerning Westland had blown up and “was precursor to the Westland affair that split her (Margaret Thatcher’s government in UK) cabinet and led to two ministers’ resignations” reports Exaronews. It was in the knowledge of Margaret Thatcher that the helicopters were defective and had “mechanical problems” (read “dangerously wobbly”) and lacked airworthiness certificate. However the airworthiness certificates were “arranged” (read “fabricated”)
Alan Bristow, of UK, who as involved in the scandalous deal, could not carry it on his conscience and wrote in his biography before he died that Westland W30 helicopter was an “utter disaster” and “noisy, heavy, complicated and expensive” and “in hot conditions (read “India”) it could hardly get off the ground”. The deaths of 10 Indians and the financially disastrous decision of Indian Government did not help Westland Helicopters much and it went bankrupt and was later bought up by Augusta.
However, the bloodhounds of Indian politics would not let it go at that. Now once more a second lot of Augusta Westland helicopters has been purchased by the Government of India under Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Presidency. (See “Will Augusta Westland Deal Crash-land Congress High Command?”) for Euro 556 million ( about Rs. 4737 Crores). The new deal is at the centre of a bribery scandal again. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her close protégé Ahmed Patel figure prominently in the Italian court proceedings in the criminal case connected to the bribery scandal. Do the threads of the earlier scandal lead us to the same place?