India promises justice in suspect $670m chopper deal
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India promises justice in suspect $670m chopper deal

NEW DELHI (AP) — India will punish any official found guilty of taking bribes from Finmeccanica to steer a multimillion-dollar helicopter contract to the Italian defense firm, the defense minister said Wednesday.

A.K. Antony told reporters the government would blacklist and take legal action against any company found to have paid a bribe in the €560-million ($670 million) deal for 12 helicopters intended for ferrying Indian officials around the country.

“Nobody will be spared. If a company violates the conditions, they are liable for criminal action,” Antony said. “The company is liable to be blacklisted.”

India’s defense ministry has ordered a separate investigation into the defense agreement with Finmeccanica after the Italian company’s chief executive was arrested in Milan on Tuesday on charges he had paid bribes to snag the Indian contract.

Meanwhile, a former Indian air force chief Shashi Tyagi on Wednesday denied media reports that members of his family had received payments from the Italian group to facilitate the helicopter deal.

India is expected to spend $80 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade its military.

The country has become the world’s top arms and defense equipment buyer in recent years due to its concerns about China’s growing power in the region and its traditional rivalry with neighbor Pakistan.

However, arms deals in India have often been mired in controversy with allegations that companies have paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Indian officials to procure lucrative contracts.