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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Hawk aircraft deal: CBI registers case against Rolls-Royce, its top executives for alleged corruption

The charges are criminal conspiracy (IPC section 120B) and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui New Delhi Published 30.05.23, 04:56 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

The CBI has registered a case against the British aerospace and defence company Rolls-Royce Plc and its top executives, as well as arms dealers and unnamed Indian public servants, for alleged corruption during 2003-2012 in the procurement of Hawk aircraft for India’s air force and navy.

Sources said that those named in the case, registered after a six-year preliminary inquiry, included Tim Jones, then director of Rolls-Royce India, alleged arms dealers Sudhir Choudhrie and Bhanu Choudhrie, Rolls-Royce Plc, and British Aerospace Systems.

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The charges are criminal conspiracy (IPC section 120B) and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The agency had started the inquiry on December 15, 2016. It found that “unknown officials had conspired with Jones and others to cheat the Government of India in connection with the aircraft supply by Rolls-Royce and its associate group companies, including Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Limited”, a CBI official said.

He said a British court had in 2017 said the company had paid commissions to swing the deal and that middlemen were involved.

According to the CBI, the accused had between 2003 and 2012 conspired with unidentified public servants who “abused their official positions” over the procurement of 24 Hawk 115s for £734.21 million (Rs 7,490 crore at current exchange rates) and an agreement for licensed manufacture of 42 additional aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The CBI official said the deal was struck in lieu of “huge bribes, commissions and kickbacks” from Rolls-Royce to intermediaries, even though the agreements, integrity pacts and associated documents of the deal “prohibited payments” to intermediaries and middlemen.

The agency has alleged that key documents relating to the transaction were seized from the Rolls-Royce India office during a survey conducted by the income-tax department in 2006-07, and that the accused had destroyed or removed other documents to evade investigation.

In 2012, media reports alleged corruption in Rolls-Royce operations, leading to an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, London.

The cabinet committee on security had on September 3, 2003, approved the procurement of 66 Hawk 115 aircraft and the signing of an inter-government agreement between India and the UK for long-term product support, the CBI official said.

The memorandum of understanding was signed on March 19, 2004. Two contracts were signed on March 26, 2004, for the direct supply of 24 Hawk aircraft and a technology transfer for 42 others to be manufactured by HAL. They prohibited the use of undue influence and middlemen or agents.

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