Political leaders welcome move to investigate suspected kickbacks in Rolls Royce deal

Kolkata, Mar. 3: Politicians welcomed the decision of defence ministry as it ordered a bribery investigation over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) purchase of jet engines from Britain’s Rolls-Royce Holdings in a deal worth at least $1.2 billion.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will look into more than 5 billion rupees ($80 million) in alleged kickbacks in the deal that was signed in 2011, a ministry official told Reuters.

Meanwhile, a leader of Communist Party of India (CPI), Gurudas Dasgupta, hailed ministry’s decision but said it should have taken the step much before.

“The defence ministry has taken a right step by ordering probe into the alleged scam though it should have done much before. We welcome the probe by central police,” said Dasgupta.

The probe into the HAL deal follows the arrest in Britain last month of Indian-born businessman Sudhir Choudhrie and his son in a bribery investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into Rolls-Royce’s dealings in China and Indonesia.

Both men denied any wrongdoing and have been released on bail, their spokesman said last month.

While there was no indication that the latest probe was linked to the Choudhries, newspapers reported that HAL’s “vigilance wing” had raised the alarm after hearing allegations that Rolls-Royce had hired consultants to advice on the deal.

In this regard, a leader of Congress P.C. Chacko said Defence Minister, Arackaparambil Kurien Antony, has always ensured investigation into scams and this has instilled faith of people in the government.

“Whenever allegations have emerged or the government was criticised, he had ensured an impartial probe into the matter. This has instilled faith in the government against corruption and he has certainly taken the right step,” said Chacko.

Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, said that the alleged scam further tinted the image of the government.

“The ruling government has been exposed repeatedly in a slew of scams that have come up during its rule. Defence deal is yet another example of its incompetence in governance,” said Yadav. (ANI)