Embraer deal: CBI quizzes Vipin Khanna over ‘kickbacks’

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New Delhi | Updated: Mar 02, 2017 8:17 AM

CBI has questioned NRI arms dealer Vipin Khanna over alleged kickbacks he had received in connection with three aircraft deals with Embraer signed in 2008.

CBI has questioned NRI arms dealer Vipin Khanna over alleged kickbacks he had received in connection with three aircraft deals with Embraer signed in 2008.

CBI has questioned NRI arms dealer Vipin Khanna over alleged kickbacks he had received in connection with three aircraft deals with Embraer signed in 2008, according to a Times Now report. In October last year, CBI had registered a case against Khanna and two companies based abroad in a case of alleged kickbacks worth over USD 5.70 million in connection with the much-talked about Embraer deal. CBI sources had said that Khanna, whose name had figured earlier also in defence deals probed by the agency, has been booked along with two companies–Brazil-based Embraer and Singapore based Interdev Pte Ltd–in conenction with the deals totalling USD 208 million. It is alleged that the kickbacks were allegedly routed from subsidiaries of Embraer to Khanna through Interdev.

The sources said the agency had carried out searches at several locations. The operation continued till late in the evening. Khanna had faced CBI probe in a gun deal involving South African company Denel in which the agency had to file a closure report as it could not gather enough evidence from abroad. He had also faced the agency probe in the Barak missile deal with Israel and sale of arms to Pakistan. Khanna is believed to be a relative of a former Congress leader and his son was an MLA in Punjab till 2015. The sources also said that it is alleged that the commission in Embraer deal was routed through Austria and Switzerland.

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They said the agency, which had registered a preliminary enquiry in September, has converted it into a regular FIR on October 18 as enough prima facie material has been found by it to proceed in the case. The deal was inked in 2008 between the Brazalian aircraft manufacturer Embraer and the the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for three aircraft equipped with indigenous radars for AEW&C (airborne early warning and control systems).

The company has been under investigation by the United States Justice Department since 2010 when a contract with the Dominican Republic raised the Americans’ suspicions. “Investigations that have been opened by the government of the United States to establish whether Embraer paid bribes in order to obtain contracts abroad have affected deals that the Brazilian company closed with Saudi Arabia and India,” Brazalian newspaper Folha De São Paulo reported.

It is suspected that a leading Indian middleman based in UK was roped in for the deal. Defence Ministry officials here said that the DRDO is yet to hear anything on the probe by the US authorities. DRDO chief S Christopher, who headed the AEW&S programme earlier, did not pick up calls or respond to messages.

Since then, the investigation has widened to examine business dealings with eight more countries. Embraer is cooperating with the investigations and announced in July that it was expecting to reach a deal soon with American authorities, the paper said.

The company has put $200 million aside to pay any eventual fines that come about as a result of the process. The company has not released details regarding the state of the investigations, but three people who have been following the case have confirmed to Folha that the deals concluded in Saudi Arabia and India are being examined, the paper reported.

In both cases, suspicions were underlined in May this year when an employee with more than 30 years at the company reached a plea-bargain agreement in investigations being conducted by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Brazil.

Albert Phillip Close, Manager of Embraer’s defence area, told Prosecutor Marcello Miller that he had heard a former sales director who worked in Europe admit to American investigators the payment of commissions to facilitate the sale of aircraft to the Saudis.
In November of 2010, the company announced the delivery of two Embraer 170 executive jets to the Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company Aramco. The amount of the deal was not announced at the time.

(With agency inputs)

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