THE DEPARTMENT of Defence has defended the sale of four Air Corps helicopters for €360,000 following a media report which revealed the company that bought them sold them for €18.7 million.
Last night the department said it would be "disingenuous" to suggest that the low sale price had cost the State €18 million. It said at the time of the sale, in October 2006, the Dauphin helicopters would have needed a major refit at a cost of between €3 million and €3.5 million per aircraft.
A defence source said officials decided against the refit, in favour of selling the aircraft and buying more modern helicopters which better suited the Air Corps's needs.
The department's statement said: "The aircraft were publicly advertised for sale and four tenders were received. The aircraft were subsequently sold to the highest bidder for approximately €360,000."
The department confirmed the aircraft were bought by US firm Rotor Leasing Ltd. It confirmed a report in the Sunday Tribune yesterday that the helicopters were then refitted by the company and sold on to the Chilean Navy.
"In that context it is perfectly reasonable to expect that the market value of the aircraft would have increased in line with the cost of the refurbishment work," the department's statement said.
"The extent of refurbishment undertaken and any additional contract terms such as supply of parts or servicing would also have an important bearing on the contract value." The department could not confirm the €18.7 million value of the helicopters when they were sold on to the Chileans.
According to departmental figures quoted by the Sunday Tribune the four helicopters were sold for €77,750 each and sold on for over €4.6 million each.
The helicopters were acquired in 1986 and were mainly used for search and rescue operations. Their then state-of-the-art technology allowed them assist the Naval Service in operations at sea by night.
Three of the fleet of five were based on in Baldonnel and two on the LE Eithne .
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