One more UPA era defence deal under CBI scanner

CBI searches Sanjay Bhandari's office, residence

Switzerland-based Pilatus Aircraft Ltd has also been named as an accused by the CBI in the case pertaining to the charges of irregularities and bribe of Rs 339 crore in the procurement, the agency said. (Image courtesy: indianairforce.nic.in)

One more UPA era defence deal has come under the CBI scanner, with the agency registering a case against lobbyist Sanjay Bhandari and unknown officials of Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Indian Air Force (IAF) in the procurement of 75 Pilatus basic trainer aircraft in 2009.

The CBI FIR, which was registered on June 19, claims that Switzerland-based Pilatus transferred more than Rs 350 crore between 2010 and 2015 to Bhandari's firm to swing the deal in its favour, violating Defence Procurement Procedure 2008.

"It is suspected that the said commission amount was paid in order to influence public servants of IAF and MoD associated with the process of aforesaid procurement," the FIR claimed.

The CBI also carried out searches at the residence and office of Bhandari in connection with the deal, officials said.

Besides Bhandari, the aircraft manufacturer has also been named in the FIR, which also includes the names of businessmen Deepak Aggarwal and Himanshu Verma. Bhandari's business associate Bimal Sareen has also been named in the FIR as well as the companies operated by them.

Bhandari is a controversial arms dealer and the MoD has banned all business dealings with his company for an indefinite period. His name has surfaced in several defence deals during the UPA regime and the CBI and Enforcement Directorate are investigating his links to Congress General Secretary Priyanka Vadra's husband Robert Vadra, who is facing investigations on London property deals.

The Request for Proposal for a basic trainer aircraft was issued by the IAF in December 2009 for procurement of 75 basic trainer aircraft and Swizz based Pilatus Aircraft Ltd was one of the bidders.

Pilatus allegedly entered into a conspiracy with Bhandari and Bimal Sareen, both directors of Delhi-based Offset India Solutions Pvt Ltd. The FIR claimed that Pilatus allegedly paid CHF 10,00,000 to Offset India Solution in two tranches in August and October 2010, besides, another CHF 4,98,87,900 (around Rs 350 crore) between 2011 and 2015 in the accounts of Dubai-based Offset India Solutions FZC, also belonging to Bhandari.

In November 2010, Pilatus "dishonestly and fraudulently" signed a pre-contract integrity pact with the MoD, "deliberately concealing the facts about" it engaging Bhandari's firm and paying money to it even before the contract was signed.

Besides Offset India Solutions, several other companies of Bhandari like OIS Advanced Technology, Avaana Software and Services, SB Hospitality and Services, Himalayan Helicorp, Santech Investments, Micromet ATI and Bhandari's wife Sonia received Rs 25.5 crore during June 2012 and March 2015 in lieu of cash provided by Bhandari from various companies belonging to one Deepak Aggarwal.

Bhandari also allegedly took over five companies from one Himanshu Verma and put Rs 39.36 crore in it, the FIR said adding that it is suspected that these transactions were part of the commission paid by Pilatus Aircraft.

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