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Arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie: What does he do?

Arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie is under investigation in Britain for receiving large sums of money running into millions of pounds for defence deals from arms companies.

Arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie is under investigation in Britain for receiving large sums of money running into millions of pounds for defence deals from arms companies.

The investigation by Guardian and BBC Panorama said British armaments major Rolls-Royce made secret payments of 10 million UK pounds to firms linked to Choudhrie and his son Bhanu for possibly helping Rolls-Royce win a major contract for engines on BAE Systems Hawk aircraft, the advanced jet trainer which India has adopted and is in the process of developing 123 aircraft with HAL. In 2004, India ordered 66 Hawk jets from the company. The Financial Express reported that BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce had signed a £700 million-deal to supply 57 Hawk training jets to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in 2010.

Choudhrie is on India’s blacklist for “corrupt or irregular practice” after his name surfaced in the Tehelka tapes, the BBC Panorama reported.

 What does Choudhrie do exactly?

The arms middleman is an expert at liaising with army personnel during field trials. And he usually deals with ammunition. Here’s what he does. For example, imagine an arms or defence equipment supplier who wants to supply his products to the army and the army needs them. The army will call for bids from several manufacturers of the equipment via the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. When the products are sent for testing, they are matched against army specifications and under varied weather conditions. Some products will be fine in normal daylight, some under snow or at high altitude. But what matters most is the seal or tick of approval and observations made by the officer at the trials.

Once the products are tested and approved, the contest shifts to who has bid the lowest price. Choudhrie’s expertise is in ensuring the product he represents gets the all-clear from the officers who are testing the equipment, and that his product is available for sale at the lowest price.

Usually, no one counters the decision of the testing officer, be it the ministers or the IAS officers in the defence ministry, because of the hallowed position the armed forces occupy in the Indian consciousness, which was recently exhibited in the immediate aftermath of the “surgical strikes” with people questioning it becoming targets for right-wing trolls and the establishment. But there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip and Sudhir Choudhrie ensures no stains are left on the uniform.

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