CBI files FIR against Rolls Royce India in Hawk aircraft corruption case

CBI files FIR against Rolls Royce India in Hawk aircraft corruption case

The CBI has filed a corruption case against British aerospace and defence company Rolls Royce PLC, its top executives and arms dealers for alleged kickbacks in the procurement of Hawk 115 Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force and Navy, officials said.

The CBI has registered a case against Tim Jones, Director Rolls Royce India, alleged arms dealers Sudhir Choudhrie and Bhanu Choudhrie, Rolls Royce Plc and British Aerospace Systems under IPC section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act after completing a six-year-old preliminary enquiry.

A British court order in 2017 also mentioned the alleged involvement of middlemen and payment of commission by the company for swinging the deal, they said. It is alleged that during 2003-12, these accused in conspiracy with unidentified public servants "abused their official positions" for procurement of 24 Hawk 115 AJTs for GBP 734.21 million.

In addition, they permitted the 'licence manufacturing' of 42 additional aircraft by HAL against materials supplied by Rolls Royce for an additional amount of USD 308.247 million and USD 7.5 million towards the Manufacturer's License Fee. This deal was struck in lieu of "huge bribes, commissions and kickbacks" paid by Rolls Royce to intermediaries, even though the agreements, integrity pacts and associated documents of the deal "prohibited payments" to intermediaries and middlemen, the CBI FIR has alleged.

The CBI enquiry showed that vital documents pertaining to the transaction were seized from Rolls Royce India office during a survey conducted by the Income Tax department in 2006-07 but the accused persons destroyed and removed the documents to evade investigation, it alleged.

In 2012, media reports alleging corruption in the Rolls Royce operations surfaced resulting in an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, London. The company prepared a Statement of Fact that disclosed its corrupt payments in connection with transactions with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and India. A deferred prosecution agreement was reached between the company and SFO.

The Statement of Fact was cited in a judgment by Crown Court Southwark, UK which showed that a sum of GBP 1.85 million was paid to an intermediary to retrieve the list of middlemen seized by the Income Tax Department during a survey of Rolls Royce India during 2006 to prevent the list falling into the hands of Defence Ministry which could have resulted in the termination of the contract and a CBI probe.

The CBI also alleged that GBP 100 million were paid by Russian Arms companies into a Swiss account in the name of Portsmouth, a company associated with Sudhi Choudhrie for defence deals with Russia for the purchase of MIG aircraft.

"Out of this amount, the companies in the name of Choudhrie's family namely Belinea Services Ltd, Cottage Consultants Ltd and Carter Consultants Inc. Received GBP 39.2 million, GBP 32.8 million and GBP 23 million respectively between October 2007 and October 2008," the FIR alleged.

It said Sudhir Choudhrie and his father Bhanu Choudhrie are alleged to be unregistered Indian agents and middlemen who worked for Rolls Royce and BAES in securing the award of contract for the supply of Hawk aircraft in question and used "undue influence on Indian public servants to induce the Government of India to approve the deal," it alleged.