The CBI late Friday raided nine locations across Delhi-NCR associated with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari and Swiss company Pilatus Aircraft Ltd after registering a case of corruption against them. The agency is probing alleged bribery in a 2012 deal for purchase of 75 trainer aircraft from Pilatus at a cost of Rs 2,895 crore.
In its FIR, registered on June 19, the CBI has listed eight accused — unknown officials of the Indian Air Force and Ministry of Defence, followed by Bhandari, Pilatus and Bhandari’s company, Offset India Solutions Pvt Ltd. Charged with corruption, criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct, the other accused include Offset Director Bimal Sareen, suspected entry operators Deepak Aggarwal and Himanshu Verma, and Offset Solutions FZC, Dubai.
Bhandari is already facing a probe by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with foreign assets allegedly held by Robert Vadra, a claim denied by Vadra.
“Searches have been conducted at nine places in Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad. These include premises of Sanjay Bhandari, Deepak Aggarwal and Himanshu Verma. Apart from this, offices of Pilatus, Offset and other companies associated with them have also been searched. Several electronic devices along with incriminating documents have been recovered,” a CBI spokesperson said.
The CBI had initiated a preliminary enquiry in November 2016, which has now been converted into an FIR. According to the findings of the PE, Pilatus signed a “Service Provider Agreement” with Bhandari’s Offset India Solutions in June 2010 before the award of contract to Pilatus. This, the CBI said, was in violation of defence procurement procedures.
According to the CBI, Pilatus paid 10 lakh Swiss Francs (Rs 7 crore) to Bhandari’s two companies before the deal and 4.98 crore Swiss Francs (Rs 350 crore) after it bagged the deal. The CBI has said that various companies allegedly associated with Bhandari also received cash payments of over Rs 64 crore after the deal through a maze of companies.
“Pilatus Aircraft Limited, Switzerland, entered into a criminal conspiracy with Sh Sanjay Bhandari and Sh Bimal Sareen, both directors of M/S Offset India Solutions Pvt Ltd… and dishonestly and fradulently signed a Service Provider Agreement with Bhandari during June 2010 in violation of Defence Procurement Procedure, 2008, to obtain the contract for supply of 75 Basic Training Aircraft to Indian Air Force,” the CBI FIR said.
It said Pilatus paid 10 lakh Swiss Francs to Offset Solutions in two tranches in August and October, 2010. Between 2011 and 2015, Pilatus paid 4.98 lakh Swiss Francs (Rs 350 crore) to Bhandari’s Dubai-based Offset India Solutions FZC, the FIR alleged. Of this, 20 lakh Swiss Francs was paid to Bhandari before the Pilatus deal was signed in 2012, it said.
According to the CBI, Pilatus “dishonestly and fraudulently” concealed this fact while signing a Pre-Contract Integrity Pact on November 11, 2010 with the Ministry of Defence. It also concealed the fact about payments made to Bhandari after it bagged the deal. “It is suspected that the said commission amount was paid in order to influence the public servants of IAF and MoD associated with the aforesaid procurement process,” the CBI FIR said.
The CBI has alleged that apart from this, six companies belonging to Bhandari and his wife Sonia received Rs 25.5 crore between June 2012 and March 2015 “in lieu of cash provided by Bhandari from various companies of Deepak Aggarwal”. Bhandari also took over five companies belonging to Himanshu Verma. Rs 39.36 crore was deposited “in lieu of cash provided by Bhandari to Verma through Aggarwal” in these companies, the FIR has alleged.
“There is strong suspicion that the aforementioned huge cash was part of commission amount paid by Pilatus… to Bhandari to obtain the contract from IAF, MoD, Govt of India,” the CBI FIR said.