Jackie Callcut left diplomat post in Delhi and ended up as AgustaWestland’s India boss
“She underlined UK government support to the Indian authorities in reaching a decision to contract with AgustaWestland”
– Michael Fallon, business minister, speaking about Jackie Callcut
One of the UK’s key diplomats who helped AgustaWestland win a huge helicopter contract with India went on to run the company’s arm in Delhi.
Exaro can reveal the “revolving-door” case as Michael Fallon, business minister, was forced to confirm to Parliament the former diplomat’s role in the AgustaWestland deal.
Jackie Callcut was first secretary, defence and security at the British high commission in the Indian capital when the €560 million deal to supply 12 AW101 helicopters to the Indian Air Force was signed in 2010.
In January, the Indian government cancelled the contract amid allegations of bribery. Two former chief executives of AgustaWestland are on trial in Italy, where the parent company, Finmeccanica, is based. The contract is also under criminal investigation in India.
The defendants and AgustaWestland deny wrongdoing, and there is no suggestion that Callcut or her colleagues were aware of any alleged corruption at the time.
But ministers are facing questions in Parliament about the UK government’s role after Exaro revealed three weeks ago that British officials helped AgustaWestland secure the deal with India.
Callcut was part of the UK government’s team of officials who promote arms sales around the world. They were working for the UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government agency that champions British exports. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Foreign Office jointly run the agency.
Callcut was “head of defence exports” at the British high commission in New Delhi from August 2007, according to her Linked-In page. For the previous four years, she had the same role in Chile.
In the New Year’s honours list for 2011, Callcut was awarded an OBE.
Callcut left her diplomatic post that July, but remained in Delhi. She joined EADS, part of the European consortium that is trying to sell the Eurofighter Typhoon to India.
At EADS, she was “senior business development manager Eurofighter”. But India chose Dassault, the French company, as the preferred bidder in 2012.
Next, she became chief executive and managing director of AgustaWestland India.
AgustaWestland has refused to discuss Callcut’s precise role in helping to secure the AW101 contract with India, and she has not responded to messages.
Fallon, minister for business and enterprise at BIS, responded to a parliamentary question from a fellow Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell, by confirming that she helped to secure the deal. But, he said, she was not involved in the contract negotiations.
Fallon told Carswell: “Jackie Callcut was not involved in the negotiations for the AgustaWestland deal with India that collapsed earlier this year. The deal is a commercial contract negotiated directly by the company.
“At the time the contract was being negotiated, Mrs Callcut was the first secretary, defence and security in the British high commission in New Delhi.
“As part of her role, she underlined UK government support to the Indian authorities in reaching a decision to contract with AgustaWestland. As with any embassy overseas, supporting UK companies in this way is a key role of the first secretary, defence and security or its equivalent.”
No government officials took part in the “commercial negotiations”.
“UK government support for the sale was emphasised to Indian government officials in the course of routine meetings as part of the normal lobbying undertaken in support of UK companies seeking to secure valuable export orders.”
Carswell told Exaro: “We need the British government to give a clear explanation for the role that civil servants played within these negotiations.”
The UKTI’s ‘Britain Open for Business’ of 2011 identifyied a “unique” aspect of “major defence deals” in India: “DSO support extends beyond conclusion of the contract. The bilateral Defence Equipment Co-operation Memorandum of Understanding, which provides the framework for many defence purchases, facilitates UK government support to its Indian counterpart by aiding oversight of the delivery and subsequent support of equipment as it enters service with the customer’s armed forces.”
And in a market brief on defence opportunities in India in 2011, the UKTI advised UK exporters to “copy correspondence to the appropriate India desk officer at UK DSO and FSDS Delhi. This will be handled in the strictest confidence.”
The FSDS Delhi – first secretary, defence and security – was then Callcut.
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