Veterans of the Indian arms trade are now facing the heat from investigating agencies again. After Sudhir Choudhrie, it is the turn of Suresh Nanda who has turned up for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate three times over the past few weeks and is due to appear before the agency again.
Nanda confirmed the development to The Indian Express.
As reported on November 4, 2016, the ED had first initiated financial inquiries into 52 firms owned by Choudhrie and officials from his Delhi office are understood to be currently appearing before the agency.
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Now, sources said, following reports of Choudhrie and his son Bhanu Choudhrie being listed as beneficiaries of several off-shore companies in the Panama Papers, the Ministry of Defence has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the connections.
The ED has begun “active” investigations of a 2011 Delhi court order in the Soltam guns upgrade case in which the judge has agreed to close the case with the proviso that the Directorate should now probe the receipt of commissions by Sudhir Choudhrie.
While the order for a ED probe in the Soltam case came in 2011, it is only now that the matter is being seriously examined. This comes just months after the agency in October 2015, sent summons to his flagship firm, MITCO, asking for ownership and financial details of all 52 India-based companies in which Sudhir Choudhrie and his wife, Anita Choudhrie have a connection.
Both Sudhir Choudhrie and Suresh Nanda had been named in the 2006 Barak missile case which has since been closed by the CBI. While Choudhrie shifted his base to London that year, Nanda now mostly lives in Dubai. Speaking to The Indian Express from there, he admitted that he had repeatedly been summoned to the ED office and had appeared each time. “I am cooperating with them but I am puzzled what this is all about. They have been questioning me about old cases which have been closed by the CBI and sort of asking my whole life history. They appear to be on a fishing expedition.”
Senior ED officials said that old FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) cases against Nanda were being examined. The officials said that investigations are also being conducted on alleged financial links between Nanda and a Kolkata-based builder and a Delhi-based aviation consultant who were recently raided by the Income Tax department.
Also under the scanner is the case against Suresh Nanda and Income Tax officer Ashutosh Verma in which the latter was allegedly given bribes by the arms dealer for “diluting” a report against him. While the ED also joined investigations in the case in 2012, the CBI filed a chargesheet only against Verma but eventually not against Nanda.