In a notification put up on its website, the defence ministry said it “has again considered” and its “competent authority has decided to further extend the period of suspension of business dealings with M/s Leonardo S.p.A (erstwhile Finmeccanica group of companies including Agusta Westland) for a period of 6 (six) months with effect from 08.11.2019 (8 November 2019).”
The Indian government has repeatedly banning Leonardo from participating in defence tenders and programmes for a six-month period at a time since 2014.
Leonardo, in its previous avatar as Finmeccanica, had come under scrutiny with Indian law enforcement agencies between 2012-2013 over allegations of pay offs in a February 2010 contract for 12 Agusta Westland AW101 helicopters for flying around India’s top leaders such as president and prime minister within the country.
The procurement project for what was then called the ‘VVIP helicopters’ programme was initiated during the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s prime ministership as a replacement for the ageing Russian Mi-8 helicopters in the Indian Air Force fleet.
However, the Rs 3,727-crore ($525-million in today’s exchange rate) contract with Agusta Westland was signed by the United Progressive Alliance government then headed by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, amidst allegations of kick-backs.
The Italian company was banned in early 2014 just before the nation headed for the general elections, with propelled Narendra Modi as prime minister.