The CBI is likely to probe the Rs 10,000-crore deal between public sector firm HAL and British engine manufacturer Rolls Royce for supplying engines to India’s BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJT) programme. India had signed contracts with both BAE and Rolls Royce, beginning 2004, for 123 Hawks that would provide stage-III flying training to rookie Indian Air Force and Navy fighter pilots.
BAE and HAL have already delivered over 60% of the Hawks ordered by the IAF and Navy since 2008, when the first of the AJTs were inducted by IAF. As and when the CBI probe begins in the case, it is likely to have an impact on the possible further orders for 20 more Hawks, which are to be used by the IAF’s aerobatics team, Surya Kirans.
Defence Minister A K Antony has over the last seven-and-half years forwarded over 100 complaints, letters and anonymous allegations received by him to the CBI for a probe, including the `3,727-crore AgustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP helicopters and the Ordnance Factory Board affairs.
Indian-origin arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie and his son Bhanu were arrested in February in London by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in connection with an investigation into a bribery scandal involving Rolls Royce, though the probe has not mentioned the HAL deal yet. The father-son duo’s office had strongly denied the allegations against them and said the two were fully cooperating with the UK authorities in the investigation. The senior Choudhrie is the promoter of C&C Alpha Group that has interests in both the countries and in the UAE.
India too is investigating into the Choudhries’ affairs, but in connection with land purchases that were seen to be illegal by the Finance Ministry.