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Case closed on helicopter procurement

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Investigators found no wrongdoing in the procurement of five helicopters a decade ago and have proposed closing the case, the attorney-general’s office said on Wednesday.

According to a statement, the Legal Service said it agreed with the suggestion of the two investigators to shut the case after no evidence of wrongdoing had been found against anyone involved in the procurement at the time.

The investigators concluded, “that in both cases, which were investigated, no acts or omissions by those involved had been established that would constitute a criminal offence, as was the probe’s mandate.”

The investigation had been launched in March 2016 following allegations of wrongdoing in two separate purchases of five AW-139 helicopters from Italian company Agusta; three for the National Guard for €45m – double the price the government had estimated – and two for the police, at €31.5m where the estimated costs were €28m.

Andreas Hasapopoulos, a senior audit service official who blew the whistle, said at the time that the state had overpaid for the acquisition by at least €14mln.

The five helicopters were acquired through two separate processes. The National Guard’s was through direct negotiation with suppliers, which was allowed at the time.

Hasapopoulos said the defence ministry pre-selected six companies and asked for bids despite it being obvious from the start that four did not meet the criteria.

Three were Russian, while the specifications mandated Western or US airworthiness certificates, and one, a Swiss company, was not even a helicopter manufacturer.

Out of the other two, one had the lead because of the criteria that were set, Hasapopoulos added.

He said he included all this in a memo to former auditor-general Chrystalla Georghadji who took part in a House defence committee meeting that discussed the matter.

Georghadji however, did not disclose the information to the committee.

One of the reasons mooted was the need for aircraft able to carry out search and rescue operations at a time when Turkey was disputing the Republic’s ability.

 

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