New Delhi: The alleged defence middleman Sanjay Bhandari, who is facing allegations of receiving kickbacks and is under the scanner of various investigative agencies, has sued a French arms company Thales in a commercial court near Paris over his unpaid commission worth Rs 167 crores.
As per a report in Daily Telegraph, “Mr Bhandari alleges that from 2008 he helped Thales sell the upgrade of the Mirage jets by facilitating a meeting” with a senior Indian official. “He claims that he was due a consultancy fee of €20m (Rs 167 crore) but was only paid €9m (Rs 75 crore).”
Bhandari who has started an €11m (Rs 92 crore) claim against a French arms company in a Parisian court, could jeopardise future sales of Rafale military aircraft to India, says the Daily Telegraph report highlighting the seriousness of his allegations levelled against Thales.
The company supplies the avionics equipment for Dassault Aviation’s Rafale aircraft.
Bhandari, according to the report, is asking the French court to order the French arms company to pay up the remaining commission that he says he is owed, which Thales denies.
Meanwhile, Bhandari is facing a separate set of allegations by the Indian authorities who want to extradite him. Bhandari’s extradition hearing starts in London on February 21, 2022. He has applied for political asylum in the UK after he fled to the UK via Nepal in December 2016.
Bhandari is under investigation by multiple agencies – including ED, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Income Tax department, and Delhi Police for money laundering, violation of the foreign exchange, black money, and official secrets laws (he had access to sensitive defence documents).
According to the UK daily report, Bhandari claims that he was paid by Thales through “an elaborate financial covert scheme in India and Dubai which enabled the payment of secret commissions to intermediaries. A special subsidiary called Thales Middle East & Africa is alleged to have been in charge of the deployment of these financial structures”.
Bhandari claims that he received a part of his commission from Thales through a Dubai-based company called UHY Saxena Consulting.
The newspaper conjectures that the claim could affect the procurement of 26 twin-engine Rafale fighter jets for its indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) INS Vikrant in a deal worth over $2 billion.
Feb 2016: Income tax Raid on Sanjay Bhandari’s residence in New Delhi’s Defence Colony area.
Oct 17, 2016: Police registered a case in connection with the recovery of confidential documents of the Ministry of Defence from the premises of arms dealer and consultant Sanjay Bhandari and his associate during an IT raid in April, 2016.
Dec 2016: He fled to the UK via Nepal.
Feb 2017: ED booked Sanjay Bhandari for alleged possession of undisclosed assets abroad and other charges. ED files a chargesheet in the matter in June 2020.
Jan 2018: He was declared a proclaimed offender by a trial court.
July 2018: The order was set aside by the high court.
27 July, 2020: The Enforcement Directorate registered a money laundering case against fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari in a Rs 6,744-crore deal by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
15 July, 2020: Sanjay Bhandari was arrested on an extradition warrant in London. He got bail later.
21 Feb, 2022: Bhandari’s main extradition hearing starts in London. India is seeking to extradite Bhandari from London to India.
So far Bhandari has claimed that he was persecuted by the ruling BJP party due to his closeness to the Congress party, leading to his fleeing the country in 2016. During the Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe in the money laundering case, the agency had found that Bhandari had helped Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in purchasing a property in the UK. The ED has lodged a money laundering case against Vadra and his close aide Manoj Arora, accusing them of acquiring the London property in an illegal manner.
(With inputs from Daily Telegraph, ANI and PTI)