The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued notices to firms linked to arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie in connection with a 16-year-old case on alleged kickbacks for the purchase of field guns for the Army. Sources said the agency has sought documents and financial statements of the firms linked to Choudhrie as part of its investigation in the case registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
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One of the ED notices relates to a case in which a Delhi court in 2011 directed the agency to probe the “receipt of commission” to Choudhrie and others. The court had then accepted the closure report filed by
The case was registered following a sting operation that had alleged that the upgrade of the Army’s 130 mm field guns involved payment of $1,56,940 in kickbacks. The court had given a clean chit to Choudhrie for lack of evidence but asked the ED to look into the matter.
The CBI had registered a case in July 2004 against erstwhile Samata Party national treasurer R K Jain, also the director of Magnum International Trading Co Ltd (MITCO), Choudhrie and unknown public servants of the Ministry of Defence and the Army for alleged cheating and corruption by entering into criminal conspiracy to award the contract for upgrading of 130 mm field guns to 155 mm by importing 185 kits costing Rs 208.15 crore to Israeli firm Soltam Limited.
Sources said the initial amount under the scanner of ED is about Rs 68 lakh, received by a firm in 2000 through foreign transfer of funds. It is understood that the agency is looking to widen its probe to all the defence deals related to Choudhrie and others.
As per the CBI case of 2004, there were allegations that an unsolicited offer from Soltam was considered by MoD and the Army without proper trials and procedures and that proposals from all other foreign vendors were not considered to favour the Israeli firm with payment of commission to agents for the same.
The CBI in its closure report had said that during its probe it was found that there was no major alternative and hence Soltam’s offer was accepted as it also coincided with urgent requirements of tanks. On the allegation that there were payments of commission to agents or middlemen, as purportedly revealed in conversation in the sting tapes, the CBI had said that the Israeli firm and its general manager for 1992-99 had denied appointing any agent to assist in the matter of import of field guns and that there was no question of payment of any commission.
The CBI probe had said that after signing of the contract in 2000, MITCO received about Rs 67.48 lakh in its bank account from Soltam. It also said that all technical trials for firings, accuracy and others to check the compatibility of 155 mm Bofors ammunition of the modified 130 mm field guns were conducted and its compatibility was confirmed.