Defence Ministry to take a call on charges against middleman

Authenticity of documents recovered by IT Department from his premises being verified.

May 28, 2016 02:43 am | Updated November 26, 2021 10:20 pm IST - New Delhi:

The government is verifying the authenticity of a set of documents recovered from a controversial middleman to decide if he should be charged under criminal sections, including the Official Secrets Act (OSA), a senior government official told The Hindu .

He said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had written to the Ministry of Defence to determine whether a criminal case could be registered against Sanjay Bhandari, who dabbles in consultancy and liaison services in the defence sector. The query, the official said, was prompted by the recovery of certain government documents from his premises during a search conducted by the Income Tax Department in April.

Suspicions over firms

The search was carried out in connection with suspicions regarding eight firms associated with Mr. Bhandari, he said. The middleman had set up a flagship company Offset India Solutions in 2008.

The IT department sent a letter to the MHA on May 18 seeking its opinion on invoking OSA against Mr. Bhandari, sources said.

The department had also sent a tranche of ‘classified’ documents taken from Mr. Bhandari’s premises.

Despite repeated efforts by The Hindu, Mr. Bhandari could not be contacted for comments. Phone calls and an email sent to him remained unanswered.

Finding the source

The IT department is scrutinising the financial transactions of Mr. Bhandari’s companies to ascertain the source of funds they received between 2009 and 2014. It suspects that these companies together received around Rs. 70 crore from over three dozen companies in instalments.

One of the eight companies was recently in the news after it entered into a joint venture with two prominent French firms, one dealing with weapons-to-aircraft interface systems, while the other one is an aircraft manufacturer.

“Since the documents pertain to the Defence Ministry, they would be in a better position to say whether the documents were of a classified nature or not. We have no wherewithal to verify the documents. We have written to the Defence Ministry to examine the documents and decide whether a criminal case is made out or not against the companies and the businessman,” said the official.

He explained that once the Defence Ministry took a decision and requested an investigating agency like the CBI or the Delhi Police to probe the matter, the Home Ministry would come into the picture.

“If we are satisfied that there are enough grounds for prosecuting the accused under OSA, then we give a go-ahead,” said the official.

The prosecution sanction under OSA is given by the Home Ministry, whereas the decision to invoke OSA is that of the investigating agency.

As reported by The Hindu on May 10, 2016, the >Enforcement Directorate had also approached the RBI and the IT department, for information on the companies related to the businessman.

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