Defence Minister A K Antony, who prides himself as Mr Clean, may have a major arms purchase scandal staring at his face yet again, with a likely CBI probe into a Rs 10,000-crore deal between public sector organisation HAL and British engine manufacturer Rolls Royce for supplying engines to India’s BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainers programme. India had signed contracts with both BAE Systems and Rolls Royce, beginning 2004, for a total of 123 Hawks that would provide stage-III flying training to rookie Indian Air Force and Navy fighter pilots.
The deal was worth Rs 1.23 lakh crore, of which the Rolls Royce deal alone was said to be worth Rs 10,000 crore. HAL was contracted to licence manufacture 105 Hawks from BAE Systems in the Bangalore facility for which Rolls Royce supplied the Adour Mk871 engines. A Defence Ministry spokesperson said he had no information if the CBI probe has been ordered. When contacted, CBI sources too said an order for a probe into the deal has not been received by them.
HAL sources in Bangalore said they received an “anonymous” letter that the engine manufacturer had paid kickbacks to defence and HAL officials to bag the deal for the Hawks programme and that the PSU immediately ordered an internal probe by its Chief Vigilance Officer. The period of investigation was between 2007 and 2011.
The investigation led to their belief that there could be a prima facie case for a larger probe and the matter was sent to the Defence Ministry for further decisions. The HAL probe had led to the belief by top brass that the foreign firm had violated several contractual obligations, which included a no-graft and no-agent pact. However, they said, the HAL had not yet received any information on a CBI probe into the matter, though it had recommended further investigation into the matter.