Embraer deal: DRDO-Air Force panel members under lens

A joint committee of Air Force and Defence Research and Development Organisation officials that had short-listed Embraer for procurement of three aircraft has come under the Central Bureau of Investigation scanner in connection with bribery allegations in the $208-million deal.

The DRDO signed the deal in July 2008 to buy three fully modified aircraft from Embraer to be used in a project to build indigenous airborne early warning and control systems for the Air Force.

The Defence Ministry, on whose reference the CBI has initiated an investigation, says a joint committee set up by the Air Force and the DRDO had short-listed Embraer after evaluating several options. The procurement was made from the Brazilian company allegedly on a single-vendor basis.

The CBI has registered the case against the U.K.-based NRI defence consultant Vipin Khanna, Embraer, the Singapore-based Interdev Pte Ltd., and unknown government officials for an alleged pay-off of $5.76 million in 2009 to help the company bag the contract.

It is alleged that even before the DRDO floated the tender, Mr. Khanna had provided some of the related documents to the company. The CBI says the 87-year-old middleman had used the commission to influence some DRDO and Defence Ministry officials.

On Friday, the agency searched the premises of Mr. Khanna in his presence. A lookout circular has been issued against him to ensure that he does not fly out of the country.

Mr. Khanna had earlier come under the CBI scrutiny in a gun deal with a South African company named Denel. But the agency did not file a charge sheet in the case due to lack of prosecutable evidence.