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Enforcement Directorate raids multiple cities in IAF Pilatus jet money laundering case


Enforcement_Directorate_PTI

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday raided multiple premises in various cities in connection with a money laundering case linked to alleged corruption in the purchase of 75 Pilatus basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2009, officials said.

They said the agency is covering at least 14 premises including a dozen in Delhi and one each in Gurgaon and Surat.

The central probe agency had filed a money laundering case to probe the deal and is carrying out the action to collect evidence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said.

The case involves absconding arms consultant and alleged middleman Sanjay Bhandari, who is already facing separate ED and CBI probes for corruption and alleged possession of undeclared assets in the country and abroad.

Bhandari is stated to be in the UK at present and the ED is set to initiate extradition proceedings against him.

The CBI had filed a criminal case in the Rs 2,895 crore Pilatus deal last year in June.

The ED has taken cognisance of this complaint and it is probing the money laundering angle and alleged creation and generation of illegal assets by the accused.

The CBI had booked Bhandari, unidentified officials of the Indian Air Force, the Defence Ministry and Switzerland-based Pilatus Aircraft Limited in the case.

The Swiss company was one of the bidders for the contract floated in 2009.

The CBI has alleged that Pilatus had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Bhandari and Bimal Sareen, both directors of Offset India Solutions Private Limited, and dishonestly and fraudulently signed a Service Provider Agreement with Bhandari in June 2010, which was in violation of the Defence Procurement Procedure, 2008.

It was allegedly done to get the contract for supply of 75 basic Trainer Aircraft to the Indian Air Force.

The agency had alleged that the company made a payment of CHF 1,000,000 in the account of Offset India Solution Private Limited with the Standard Chartered Bank, New Delhi in two tranches in August and October, 2010.

In addition, Rs 350 crore was also transferred in Swiss Francs from 2011 to 2015 in the bank accounts of Dubai-based Offset India Solutions FZC, also belonging to Bhandari.

Pilatus dishonestly and fraudulently signed a Pre- Contract Integrity Pact on November 12, 2010 with the Defence Ministry, deliberately concealing the facts about service provider agreement with Bhandari, the CBI had alleged.

The inquiry showed that Pilatus allegedly concealed payments made to Bhandari's companies in India and Dubai, the CBI had said while registering its FIR three years after it initiated a preliminary enquiry to probe the deal.

The CBI had said it is suspected that the commission amount was allegedly paid to influence the officials of the IAF, the MoD and other government departments associated with the procurement.

Pilatus bagged the contract on May 24, 2012 for Rs 2895.63 crore.

"Offset India Solutions Pvt Ltd. and other Indian companies of Bhandari and his wife Sonia Bhandari received Rs 25.5 crore during June, 2012 to March, 2015 in lieu of cash provided by Bhandari from various companies of Deepak Aggarwal," the CBI had said.

Bhandari allegedly routed money through purchase of various companies and cash transactions involving Aggarwal and one Himanshu Verma, it was alleged by the CBI.

"There is a strong suspicion that the aforementioned huge cash amount were the part of the commission amounts paid by Pilatus Aircrafts Limited to Bhandari to obtain the contract," the CBI alleged.

Besides Bhandari, the CBI has also booked his companies Offset India Solutions Pvt Ltd, Offset India Solutions FZC, UAE, Aggarwal, Verma, Sareen and unknown others for criminal conspiracy, cheating and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.

The ED has booked Bhandari in two other PMLA cases and it has filed a chargesheet against him few months back in a case of alleged possession of illegal foreign assets and creation of undisclosed assets.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)