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Congress Seeks Answers From Nirmala Sitharaman Over Alleged Kickbacks On AN-32 Aircraft Spare Parts

File Picture Courtesy : Moneycontrol
File Picture Courtesy : Moneycontrol

Training its guns on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the Congress  party has  now demanded a response from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on an alleged kickback of Rs 17.55 crore received by ministry officials in the purchase of spares for the IAF’s AN-32 transport aircraft.

The party also demanded that the government should use, not “misuse” its investigative agencies in this case.

Citing a news report about Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau investigating an alleged kickback of Rs 17.55 crore over the sale of spares for the Soviet-era aircraft to India, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “AN-32 is the workhorse of the Indian Air Force and plays an extremely critical role in the entire logistics and supply chain of the IAF. The news report and some letters circulating in the social media alleged that a contract for procurement of spares was signed on November 26, 2014.”

Despite the terms of contract not having been fulfilled, completion statements were signed between the Ministry of Defence/Air Headquarters and supplier company Spetstechnoexport on August 13, 2015, October 20, 2015 and April 5, 2016, he said, adding the government should respond on this extremely serious issue.

“We do hope she (Sitharaman), who speaks on every issue, will take time out and respond to something which pertains to her ministry also,” he said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi had earlier had demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the “self-proclaimed chowkidar”, should take immediate action against the Defence Ministry officials.

Meanwhile Tewari further said that Ukrainian investigators held after signing of these completion statements despite the terms of contract remaining unfulfilled, a sum of Rs 17.55 crore was transferred to the account of a company called Global Marketing, ostensibly in the Noor Islamic Bank in the UAE.

“They (the government) should go deep into the matter and put all the facts in front of the people. We urge them instead of misusing the institutions like CBI, ED and Income Tax for spreading political hatred, they must use them for national interest in this case.”

He raised five points for the government to respond to, including if the Ukrainian authorities sought legal assistance from the Indian government in February this year, and if so, the government’s response, or if the Defence Ministry had ordered any probe into the matter.

He also asked if this government believes in transparency, why it is hiding these facts or will it “like the Rafale purchase again hide behind the veil of some confidentiality clauses to sweep this matter under the carpet?”

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