The Defence Ministry has written to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), seeking a preliminary enquiry into the 2008 Embraer aircraft deal for the IAF. The move comes after DRDO Chief S Christopher briefed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the deal, which has come under cloud over allegation of bribery. A Brazilian newspaper Folha De São Paulo reported last week that as part of the ongoing investigations on Embraer, Brazil and US are also probing the role of a middleman in the $208 million Embraer jet deal between Embraer and DRDO.
DRDO has already approached Embraer for an explanation over the report suggesting that the Brazilian company had hired a middleman based in UK to get the deal through in 2008. Such a practice is banned by the Indian military procurement laws. Parrikar had said that if there is a criminal angle to the deal, then it would be probed by the CBI. The deal for the purchase of three Brazilian aircraft Embraer was signed during the UPA-1 rule. It dealt with the supply of three aircraft equipped with indigenous radars for AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems).
Embraer has been under probe by the US justice department since 2010 after a contract with the Dominican Republic had raised doubts. The scope of the probe also extends to defence deals made by Embraer with Saudi Arabia. The newspaper has quoted Albert Phillip Close, Embraer’s defence sales manager, as saying that an ex-sales director of the company told US investigators that the firm had contracted a representative to assist in the sale of the surveillance systems to India. According to the paper, a representative from UK was hired because Indian laws ban middlemen in defence deals.