Feb 19, 2013, 01.00 PM IST | Source: PTI

PM says ready to discuss chopper issue; team off to Italy

With the Opposition preparing to rake up the chopper scam in Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said the government is ready to discuss the issue even as a team of CBI and defence ministry officials headed for Italy to collect evidence about alleged kickbacks.

With the Opposition preparing to rake up the chopper scam in Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said the government is ready to discuss the issue even as a team of CBI and defence ministry officials headed for Italy to collect evidence about alleged kickbacks.

Singh made it clear that the government would not shy away from debating the raging controversy over the Rs 3,600-crore deal for 12 helicopters meant to ferry Indian VVIPs. "We can always sit down. There is scope for discussion. Parliament is a forum for discussion. We are ready to discuss all issues," Singh said when asked about the Opposition threat to stall Parliament on the "scam".

The Prime Minister was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a function in Rashtrapati Bhawan to confer the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on noted social-worker Ela Bhatt.

The BJP and Left parties have said they will raise the issue in Parliament in the upcoming Parliament session and demand answers from the government. Singh's comments came as a team of CBI and defence ministry officials headed for Italy where the alleged scam was unearthed with the arrest of Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini last week.

The team will interact with the Italian officials from the foreign ministry, investigative agencies and vendors including Finmeccanica to collect as much evidence as possible in the case, defence ministry officials said in New Delhi.

Joint secretary and acquisition manager (air) Arun Kuma Bal is representing the defence ministry in the team. Meanwhile, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said probe was going on at "many levels" and Letters Rogatory is the "best and strongest method" available to it for seeking details from Italian courts on the case.

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