Rolls-Royce paid bribes to Indian arms agent for Hawk engines
Britain-based manufacturing multinational Rolls-Royce may have paid millions of dollars to an Indian agent among others to win defence deals in 12 countries, an investigation by BBC Panorama and The Guardian has revealed.
According to the report, Rolls-Royce made secret payments of around £10 million to firms linked to arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie and his son Bhanu that may have helped the company win a major contract for engines on Hawk aircraft to India. Sudhir is on India’s blacklist for “corrupt or irregular practice”‘, BBC reported.
The report also quoted Choudhrie’s lawyer as saying that his client has never paid bribes to Indian government officials or acted as an illegal middleman in defence deals. Choudhrie also serves as an adviser on India toLiberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and his family.
In 2004, India ordered 66 Hawk jets from the company. According to a report by The Financial Express, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce had had signed a £700 million-deal to supply 57 Hawk training jets to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in 2010. On October 14, The Indian Express had reported that Choudhrie and his family members had benefitted from an offshore foundation set up by Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian firm that is currently being investigated for corruption as well.
The media investigation, aired on BBC Panorama, claimed that the company has been benefiting from illegal deals for several years. It alleged that Rolls-Royce has agents in Brazil, India, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Angola, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
Sudhir and Bhanu Choudhrie were arrested in 2014 during an investigation into Rolls-Royce dealings by the Serious Fraud Office investigation into Rolls-Royce, the reports said. Both were released without charge. Choudhrie has been investigated by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate in various arms deals in the past, The Hindu reported.
The report added that Choudhrie and his family live in London and he figures in the CBI’s confidential list of ‘Undesirable Contact Men’, who are suspected of manipulating government contracts.