An investigation by the BBC and The Guardian has found that British defence major Rolls-Royce made ‘secret payments’ of around 10 million pounds to an Indian defence agent to win a big contract for engines on Hawk aircrafts used by the Indian Air Force.
Rolls-Royce had in 2013 admitted that it had failed to declare that it had employed middlemen on civil energy contracts awarded by state-run bodies. Separately, police have been examining arms deals involving Rolls-Royce between 2007 and 2011.
Rolls-Royce in its defence said that it had zero tolerance towards bribery and corruption but BBC Panorama’s investigation suggests the British manufacturer paid the money to companies linked to arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie.
Choudhrie is on an Indian government blacklist of people suspected of ‘corrupt or irregular practice’.
“The joint investigation has found evidence of a suspicious payment that was made in cash. It involves 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.”
“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 to the company,” the report claimed.
Choudhrie’s lawyers told BBC that he ‘has never paid bribes to government officials or acted as an illegal middleman in defence deals’. They said he has ‘no knowledge of the contents’ of the list.