Arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie and his son Bhanu were arrested earlier this week by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which is investigating a bribery scandal involving defence and aerospace giant Rolls Royce.
Choudhrie, who was in Delhi until recently, was arrested in London, and questioned on his association with Rolls Royce, which is under investigation for bribery in major deals in Asia, including two in China and one in Indonesia.
The UK-based firm is very active in India’s civil and military sectors, but no details have emerged yet of an Indian deal being under SFO probe.
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Choudhrie got a clean chit from CBI in 2011 over a Rs-208 crore deal with Israel’s Soltam for the upgrade of artillery guns. However, the Enforcement Directorate is investigating several suspicious money transactions in recent years from bank accounts held by him and his wife.
“The allegations against Bhanu and Sudhir Choudhrie are strongly denied. Full cooperation is being given to the authorities,” a spokesperson for the Choudhries said, while referring to the SFO investigation.
Sources said the Indian investigation was focused on the illegal purchase of agricultural land by Choudhrie, and has identified three banks accounts held by the arms dealer and his wife based on a suspicious transaction report (STR) generated by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Ministry of Finance.
Choudhrie, a well known backer of the British Liberal Democrats, is the main promoter of the C&C Alpha group, which has multiple business interests in India and the UK.
“In connection with a Serious Fraud Office investigation, we can confirm a number of search warrants have been executed at various properties in London today. Two men were also arrested,” the SFO said in a statement issued on Wednesday. It did not name Choudhrie or his son.
CBI officials said on Friday that they would seek information about the arrests and the Choudhries’ alleged involvement in the crime from counterparts in the UK. The ED is likely to rope in the Customs Overseas Intelligence Network (COIN) for information on the investigation.
Rolls Royce has been accused of bribing the son of former dictator Suharto with $ 20 million and a Rolls car to facilitate the purchase of engines by Garuda, the Indonesian national airline. In China, the company is accused of having paid bribes to bag contracts with Air China in 2005 and with China Eastern Airlines in 2010.