[Exclusive] India decides to lift ban on Italian defense manufacturing giant Leonardo

[Exclusive] India decides to lift ban on Italian defense manufacturing giant Leonardo

(Representative image) Image courtesy: @ Leonardo_live / Twitter & nbsp | & nbspPhoto credit: & nbspTwitter

New Delhi: India has decided to lift the ban on Leonardo, the Italian defense manufacturing giant, of which AgustaWestland, involved in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter scam is a part.

The authorization for Leonardo is “conditional,” said a senior government official. The ban will disappear, but …

The investigation of the case, entrusted to the CBI or the Central Investigation Office and also, the ED or the Directorate of Enforcement can continue.

Leonardo must start, when it comes to financial problems with India, from scratch. That means Leonardo cannot make any commercial claims on India based on a prior agreement. The ban happened in 2013 when rewards to Indian officials came to light. AK Antony, then Defense Minister, had pushed for the ban. Since then, the company (AgustaWestland was part of Finmeccanica) has been restructured and renamed.

Since the ban, Indo-Italian ties have improved with the Marines case solved. Lifting the ban can help India in two ways

  1. First, it will allow India access to more first-class weapons systems. Just one example is the Black Shark torpedo needed by the Indian Navy’s Scorpene submarines. These torpedoes are manufactured by WASS, part of the Leonardo group.
  2. Second, lifting the ban will allow some influence over Leonardo when it comes to arms sales to Pakistan. A six-member Pakistani Navy delegation, led by Rear Admiral Abdul Samad, had visited Leonardo’s Torpedo Production Center for weapons demonstrations.

The decision comes after the Defense Ministry’s consultations with top Justice Ministry officials. Both Italian Ambassador Vincenzo De Luca and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla recently said that discussions between the two countries were ongoing. The two prime ministers, Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart, met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome a few days ago.

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One option was a partial lifting of the ban, where the helicopter vertical would remain prohibited, but the other sections would be cleared. The conditional ban clears Leonardo up, but important investigations into who received the multi-million euro bribes may continue.

The ban came after information about the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters for Rs 3,600 crore in 2010 came to light three years later and senior officials from the Indian Air Force, the Indian government and the Party Congress participated. AgustaWestland officials were also arrested in Italy.

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