MARKING one of its quickest probes into a defence deal, the Central Bureau of Investigation has lodged an FIR in the 2008 Embraer aircraft purchase, naming NRI defence consultant Vipin Khanna as the agent who received commissions to the tune of $5.76 million in 2009.
The last time Vipin Khanna, 87, was being probed by Indian agencies was in 2006 following the oil-for-food scandal when his son, Aditya Khanna, was named as the main beneficiary of the contracts and his (Vipin Khanna’s) passport remained impounded for a long period.
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Khanna, who is in New Delhi, was unavailable for comment. The agency, which registered a preliminary inquiry in the Embraer case on September 16, filed the FIR in a Delhi court on October 18 and converted it into a regular case.
The FIR names Khanna as the beneficiary of the commissions and a Singapore-based company, Interdev Pte Ltd, as the entity through which the commissions were routed in three tranches via a subsidiary of Embraer. The alleged payoffs went through Austria and Switzerland. Interdev Pte Ltd is listed as a software consultancy firm incorporated in 2000.
Following allegations, first reported in the Brazilian press, of kickbacks being paid in the $210 million-deal for purchase of three Embraer-145 aircraft by India, the Ministry of Defence handed over the deal’s documents and agreements to the CBI.
The agency has now reconstructed the timeline of the negotiations in its FIR, stating that the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) cleared the purchase and customisation of the aircraft with airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems in 2004. The deal was formally signed in 2008. The Brazilian aerospace company was the only one to have tendered for the deal. Prior to the final agreements being signed in 2008, it had entered into a pre-tender integrity pact with DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) that was to handle the AEW&C segment of the deal, which prohibited any commissions being paid to agents.
Two Embraer platforms were delivered to India in 2012 and the remaining one in 2015 for eventual use by the Indian Air Force.
It was the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which in 2013 first came out with allegations of kickbacks being paid by the aircraft manufacturer in several countries including India. The CBI is now proposing to send teams to these countries as well as to Brazil and the USA to close in on the money trail and send LRs (Letters Rogatory) for assistance.