THE BBC reported on Monday that an investigation conducted by its Panorama team and The Guardian has found evidence that suggests Rolls-Royce made secret payments of around 10 million pounds to firms linked to arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie that may have helped the company win a major contract for engines on Hawk aircraft to India.
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“The joint investigation has also found evidence of a suspicious payment that was made in cash. It involves Mr Choudhrie’s son, Bhanu, who accompanied an arms executive called Peter Ginger on a trip to Switzerland in 2007,” the report claimed.
“During the trip, Mr Ginger made a cash payment amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds into a secret bank account. The account was opened in the name of “Portsmouth” and bank documents seen by Panorama later showed a balance of more than 1mn Swiss francs,” the report claimed.
“Mr Ginger was a key negotiator on the sale of Hawk aircraft to the Indian government. All of the planes had Rolls-Royce engines and the deal was worth around 400m (pounds) to the company,” the report claimed.
According to the report, Bhanu Choudhrie’s lawyers told the BBC he has never been paid to secure deals for Rolls-Royce in India, including the sale of Hawk jets.
Rolls-Royce told BBC that it was “fully co-operating with the authorities” and “cannot comment on ongoing investigations”.
BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce had announced in July 2010 that they had signed a 700mn-pound deal to supply Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with 57 Hawk training jets. The deal followed an order for 66 Hawk jets by India in 2004.
On October 14, The Indian Express had reported that London-based Choudhrie and his family members are beneficiaries of an offshore foundation set up in 2004 by Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca whose data was mined for the Panama Papers investigation.
The records accessed by this newspaper showed that Choudhrie’s elder son Bhanu is a director in two British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies since 2002. He is also named as director and shareholder of two Seychelles companies formed in 2007.