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Shudhir Choudhrie — India's mover and shakers in defence deals

Monday, 10 March 2014 - 11:30pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Two simultaneous probes- one by CBI and other by UK’s Serious Fraud Organisation into British global engineering giant Rolls Royce have once again brought back India-born arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie under public scrutiny. 

UK’s SFO claims that Roll- Royce through middle bribed Tommy Suharto, the son of Indonesia's former president General Suharto, with $20m (£13m) and a blue Rolls-Royce car. And, here in India, the company used services of a intermediary(middlemen) firm to bag contracts worth thousands of crore. The Indian Air force has been flying jets with Rolls Royce engine for over 25 years, but the CBI is asked to look into the deals happened during 2007-2011 between Rolls-Royce and HAL.

“ Here, CBI is only looking into period of four years. But, here, nobody is talking about that the company has been doing business in India for over two decades. It can not possible without hiring middlemen,”said an industry insider.

According to British media reports,the escalation of the SFO's Rolls-Royce bribery investigation and now CBI probe in India ,could also prove embarrassing for David Cameron and the royal family, who have spoken of their pride in one of Britain's best-known companies. And Choudhrie, who has emerged as the one of the biggest donor of British ruling coalition party Liberal Demoracts, who believed to have donated more  £500,000 to the Lib Dems via his family company since 2010.

Sudhir Choudhrie, a British citizen,also known by his nickname 'Bunny'', started as defense middleman in the early 1970’s. He specialized in doing air force deals and had a good network in Russia. Later when Israelis entered the business, the Choudhrie was amongst the first movers in the industry, according to an insider.

In India, Sudhir exploited connections with his uncle BK Kapoor, who retired as Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL), the public sector undertaking and was Sudhir’s mentor in defence deals.

“Over years, Sudhir developed the reputation that nothing moves in defence industry without his involvement. From politicians to key business houses, he is the movers and shaker in India’s military purchase. Only, he can manage to escape from two CBI probes,”another source added.

Choudhrie was investigated and later cleared of allegations he accepted a $150,000 (£90,000) commission as part of an arms deal with the Israeli company Soltam in 2000.

The CBI also investigated claims that Choudhrie and his companies received "a number of suspected remittances to the tune of millions of dollars" from arms firm Israel Aircraft Industries over a deal to supply seven Barak missile systems and 200 missiles to the Indian navy. The CBI closed its seven-year investigation into the allegations on 24 December 2013 due to a lack of evidence.

Few years, his elder brother Rajiv was passed away, who has a son Dhruv and daughter Simran. Simran married to Union Minister Kamal Nath’s younger son Bakul Nath.

Sudhir has a son Bhanu and daughter Dhariya. Both live in London had fled to  London in October 2006, a few days before CBI filed a criminal case against him in a defense scam.

Last year, Sudhir’s name figured in the list of "Undesirable Contact men" --prepared by the CBI and distributed to all government departments, states politicians and officials should be "careful and cautious in dealings with unscrupulous contact men whose names are on these lists, to avoid associating with them socially and accepting hospitality and gifts from them.

But after CBI gave him clean chit in two its investigations, Choudhrie travels freely to India accompanied with his son. But now, here in india has entered into real estate business and constructing a network of cinemas, “lifestyle malls and luxury hotels. 

In India, he also does business from a Bangalore based front company Alpha Design Technologies Private Limited (ADT), which has an industrial license to manufacture defense equipment in India. It also officially bid for defense contracts being given out by Ministry of Defense (MOD) and in the past few eight years, the company has managed to get several big defense contracts from the MOD. It has also got defense contracts from foreign vendors who are setting up joint ventures to meet the requirements of defense procurement policy.

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