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ED attaches assets of Basmati rice exporter in Embraer defence deal case

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Enforcement Directorate Thursday attached assets worth Rs 15 crore of Basmati rice-exporting firm KRBL Ltd in a money laundering case linked to UPA-time defence deal with aircraft manufacturer Embrarer.

The case pertains to payment of alleged commission by Embraer to clinch the USD 208-million deal with India, in which it is suspected that kickbacks were paid.

The attached assets include a land and rice mill located in Dhuri tehsil of Sangrur district in Punjab and it belongs to the rice company KRBL Ltd, the agency said in a statement.

KRBL Ltd is manufacturer of India Gate Basmati Rice.

It issued an order under the Pevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to attach the assets worth a total of Rs 15.32 crore.

The central agency had registered a criminal complaint in the case based on a CBI FIR against Embraer SA of Brazil, unknown officials of the Ministry of Defence, alleged middleman Vipin Khanna, Interdev Aviation Services Pte Ltd of Singapore and others.

The ED alleged that "Embraer, Brazil engaged a middleman Vipin Khanna to secure the contract for supplying EMB-145 aircrafts to the Government of India as platform for Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) project".

ED and the CBI are probing alleged payment of USD 5.70 million as commission to seal the deal, officials sources said.

This is one of the defence deals of the previous UPA regime that the two central agencies are probing, beside the AgustaWestland choppers deal case and the Pilatus aircraft deal.

The deal for three aircraft, which were to be used by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for air-borne radar systems, was inked with Embraer in 2008.

According to defence procurement rules of India, middlemen are strictly barred in defence deals.

The ED said its investigation shows that the accused had "laundered kickbacks to India in KRBL Ltd via its Dubai based entity KRBL DMCC. KRBL Ltd played an active role to bring the proceeds of crime paid as commission by Embraer SA, Brazil to India via Dubai through banking channels".

The agency claimed it also found the role of Delhi-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan in the deal. Khaitan is one of the prime accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal case and has been arrested in the past by the two probe agencies.

The lawyer has more criminal cases against him that are being probed by the ED and the Income-Tax Department including one for allegedly holding undisclosed assets abroad.

"Khaitan had played a crucial role to launder the proceeds of crime totalling USD 5.6 million (Rs 26 crore). Khaitan was a Director in KRBL Ltd and is known to Anoop Gupta, Anil Mittal and Arun Gupta, all of whom are Directors of KRBL Ltd," it said.

Khaitan, it said, was also known to Vipin Khanna and his sons.

ED said Khaitan informed Anoop Gupta that he had got a deal wherein some passenger aircraft will be sold to a company in Austria and no investment was to be made from the company and that he (Gupta) would have to be an introducer and he will receive the commission as an introducer fees of about USD 3 million.

Kickbacks amounting to about Rs 15.32 crore, out of total kickbacks of Rs 26 crore, were received in KRBL Ltd. against the contract awarded to Embraer Brazil SA by the government," it said.

The agency alleged that the kickback amount of Rs 15.32 crore was re-routed from Dubai to India to look like a "dividend" amount in the Basmati rice exporting firm's accounts.

The Dubai arm of the rice company executed a "sham" agreement with Interdev Aviation Services Pte Ltd, Singapore to launder the proceeds of crime to India through banking channels, it is alleged.

A Brazilian newspaper had alleged that that the company (Embraer) had taken the services of middlemen to clinch deals in Saudi Arabia and India.

Embraer, while reacting to the case in the past, had said that "since 2011, Embraer has publicly reported that it has been conducting an extensive internal investigation and cooperating with the authorities on investigations regarding alleged violations of the (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) FCPA."

"The company voluntarily expanded the scope of the investigation, systematically reporting the progress of the case to the market. The company is not party of the legal proceedings in Brazil. Therefore, it does not have access to the information contained therein," it had said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, July 04 2019. 21:45 IST