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CBI to start probe in HAL bribery scam

Sunday, 9 March 2014 - 10:47am IST | Agency: PTI

CBI in the next couple of days will register a preliminary enquiry into alleged bribery in a Rs 10,000 crore deal for supply of aircraft engines to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited by London-based Rolls Royce. The agency had received a complaint from the Defence Ministry to look into the supply of aircraft engines to HAL and is scrutinising the documents, highly placed sources said.

Defence Minister AK Antony has ordered a CBI probe into the allegations. They said a preliminary enquiry may be initiated by Wednesday on the basis of which a decision could be taken to register the FIRs in the cases. "We will co-operate fully with the regulatory authorities and have repeatedly made clear that we will not tolerate misconduct of any sort," a Rolls-Royce spokesman has said.

Sources said the role of a London-based arms dealer, who had been probed by the agency in different cases, is also under scanner and if evidence of his role emerges, he might be made an accused in the FIRs. They said the arms dealer who is already in the list of "undesirable contact" issued by the agency to government officials has been probed in the past but since no evidence had emerged the cases were closed. 

The scandal relates to deal in the supply of engines for Hawk trainer and Jaguar fighter aircraft between 2007 and 2011 and an internal probe by the vigilance wing of HAL has prima facie established the charges, the sources said. The allegations surfaced in the form of a letter received by HAL recently claiming that bribes were paid to officials in HAL and other departments concerned to bag contracts.

The investigations by CVO have prima facie found that the company allegedly violated several of the contractual obligations with HAL between the period of 2007-11, when these bribes were allegedly paid. The company has supplied engines for the aircraft being manufactured by the HAL for the Indian Air Force. The issue came to light after HAL issued guidelines to its vendors and suppliers to ensure probity in its transactions as part of its integrity pact signed with them.

Rolls Royce, in a letter written to HAL in December last, had said that it had employed a Singapore-based person identified as Ashok Patni and his firm Aashmore Private Limited as "commercial advisor" in India, providing sales and logistical support, local business support and "strategic advice."  The firm also told HAL that it had severed ties with Aashmore and its owner in 2013.

The commissions paid by the firm are in violation of the procurement rules in India which prohibits hiring of middlemen or commission agents while transacting deals with the Defence Ministry.


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