Britain-based manufacturing multinational Rolls-Royce may have paid an “Indian agent” among others to win defence deals in twelve countries, according to reports by The Guardian and BBC. India’s defence procurement procedure prohibits the payment of commission or the involvement of a middleman. The company, however, has claimed a policy of “zero tolerance to corruption” and said it was “cooperating” with the authorities investigating the case.
Alleged arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie also received close to £10 million from Rolls-Royce plc, the company designs and manufactures engines for aviation and other industries. The amount was credited into firms linked to him. Choudhrie is an unregistered arms middleman, according to BBC and Rolls-Royce reportedly paid a large amount of cash to get a contract for manufacturing engines for Hawk aircraft.
It is to be noted that Chaudhrie is in the government’s list of ‘blacklisted people’ suspected of ‘corrupt or illegal practices’.
Sudhir Choudhrie and his family members were also found to be beneficiaries of an offshore foundation set up in 2004 and were exposed in the Panama Papers investigation.
Choudhrie, who lives in London is also adviser on Indian affairs to the Liberal Democrats party leader Tim Farron in the U.K. He has donated over 1.6 million pounds to the party. The agent and his son, Bhanu, were arrested and questioned by the SFO in 2014 over charges of bribery but were released when they denied any wrongdoing.
A company spokesman said: “Concerns about bribery and corruption involving intermediaries remain subject to investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and other authorities. We are fully cooperating with the authorities and we cannot comment on ongoing investigations.”
The Guardian/BBC investigation, broadcast on the BBC’s Panorama programme on Monday, disclosed that the use of agents by the blue-chip manufacturer is far wider than previously publicly known.
The agents have been hired in at least 12 countries: Brazil, India, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Angola, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
Labour and Conservative administrations have forged close relations with Rolls-Royce and have often lobbied foreign governments to give large export contracts to the manufacturer.
Britain’s former Prime Minister David Cameron once praised it as “a world leader in the development of advanced technologies … of which the whole country can be proud. The Duke of Cambridge called it “one of the United Kingdom’s great global companies”.