AN-32 kickback charge: Congress asks Sitharaman to respond

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New Delhi, May 31: The Congress on Thursday demanded a response from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on an alleged kickback of Rs. 17.55 crore received by officials of her ministry in the purchase of spares for the IAF’s AN-32 transport aircraft.

Citing a news report, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine is investigating an alleged kickback of Rs 17.55 crore over the sale of spares for AN-32 aircraft to India.

“AN-32 is the workhorse of the Indian Air Force (IAF) 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 (when NDA government was in office),” said Tewari.

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 added.

Tewari said this was an extremely serious issue and his party would like the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the highest level to respond.

“We do hope she (Nirmala 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 on Thursday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the “self-proclaimed chowkidar”, should take immediate action against the Defence Ministry officials.

Tewari further said: “The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine alleges that as a consequence of the signing of these completion statements, when the terms of contract remained unfulfilled, a sum of Rs 17.55 crore was transferred to the account of a company called Global marketing.

“…And allegedly, the transfer was made to an account which ostensibly is in the Noor Islamic Bank in the UAE.”

In this context, Tewari raised five points for the NDA government to respond to:

(a) “Is it a fact that the National Criminal Investigation Bureau of Ukraine sought legal assistance from the Ministry of Home Affairs/MOD/Government of India in Feb 2018?”

(b) “Is it a fact that the terms of contract had not been fulfilled and the MOD signed a statement of completion which facilitated the transfer of this alleged illegal gratification/kickback?”

(c) “What has been the response so far of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the MOD to the request of the Ukrainian government? Has any internal process been initiated by the MOD in the wake of this alleged scam?”

(d) “Does this government believe in transparency and probity? If yes, then why have they been hiding these facts from the people?”

(e) “Will the government like the Rafale purchase again hide behind the veil of some confidentiality clauses to sweep this matter under the carpet?”