AgustaWestland Controversy: Congress Demands Answers From PMO

03/02/2016 10:38 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 04: Haryana Industries Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala speaking at the India Today State of the States Conclave in New Delhi on Friday 04 November, 2011. (Photo by Ramesh Sharma/India Today Group/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- Congress today threw the ball in the PMO court over questions in the wake of a media report in which the Narendra Modi government is accused of offering Italy the freedom of the two marines in exchange for evidence linking Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her family to the AgustaWestland copter scam.

"PMO needs to answer on this issue," party's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala remarked.

He was asked to react to a report in a Calcutta daily, The Telegraph, which spoke of a British arms agent wanted by Indian investigators in the scam of making such an allegation.

Party General Secretary Digvijay Singh took to Twitter to pose a question to Modi on the matter.

"Mr Prime Minister is it a fact?" he asked on the micro-blogging site by posting a picture of the report alongside.

Christian Michel, the 54-year-old agent, has made the allegations in a letter to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Seas in Hamburg and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague where Italy and India are battling legally over murder charges against the marines.

Michel has claimed Modi made the offer at a secret "brush-by" meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during the UN General Assembly in September 2015 when both leaders were in New York.

AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of the Italian firm Finmeccanica at the time, was the firm that in 2010 won the contract to supply 12 choppers to India for Rs 3,600 crore, specifically to fly the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister at high altitudes.

The Telegraph, which ran the report, said it could not independently verify Michel's allegations.

"The charges are too ridiculous to comment on," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the newspaper which shared Michel's letter with the government for its response.

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