Bribe-for-display taint to Aero India 2011
Within days of its successful hosting here, Aero India 2011 has been tainted by allegations that an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer accepted bribes in large sums of money, including in euros, from foreign exhibitors for giving some of them favourable positions in the ''static display area.''
A Court of Inquiry (CoI) has been ordered against Wing Commander Thakur on the basis of a report of Assistant Provost Marshall (Bangalore), Wing Commander Vijay Kumar.
This report was sent to Air Headquarters in New Delhi a few days after February 12, the day Wg Cdr Thakur was allegedly caught red-handed accepting Rs 20,000 in marked currency notes from a decoy which the Department of Defence Productions and Supplies had employed to lay the trap. Thakur, previously a fighter pilot, had later moved to flying IAF transport aircraft.
The CoI is being presided over by Group Captain Daniel Victor. The trap was set up after allegations surfaced that Wg Cdr Thakur was seen accepting money on the first two days of Aero India from foreign exhibitors. According to preliminary investigations, he is suspected to have collected three lakh euros. IAF officers, like Wg Cdr Thakur, were decision makers to position exhibits in the static display area and they had leverage to favour some exhibitors over others.
Wg Cdr Kumar’s report has raised questions of not just the involvement of other senior IAF officers in the bribes-for-favourable-placements case, but also suspects that previous Aero India shows in Bangalore may also have been tainted with under-the-table dealings.
Senior Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials disclosed to Deccan Herald that soon after he was trapped, Wg Cdr Thakur first called up a Bangalore-based superior officer whose name is being withheld for legal reasons.
Honey traps used
It is reliably learnt that three weeks before the five-day Aero India show, which began in Yelahanka near here on February 9, Wg Cdr Thakur was counter-intelligence officer at the Yelahanka air base and was shifted to oversee the arrangements at the static display area along with another officer.
What has shocked the IAF community in Bangalore and the MoD is allegations that European women were employed to “soften up” officers who were involved with making arrangements for Aero India 2011.
A photograph of an Air Marshall in the company of a European woman believed to be a commercial sex worker has been found and which, along with a separate report, has been sent to the MoD in South Block, New Delhi.
While the CoI will probe Wg Thakur’s case, parallel investigations by the IAF, the MoD and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) will likely inquire into suspicions that senior officers might have links with foreign aircraft manufacturers.
The IB station in Bangalore is understood to have sent a detailed report to the Defence ministry and the Ministry of Home Affairs.