Rheinmetall Air Defense (RAD) has been named by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation as having paid $530,000 to a suspected Indian arms middleman, Abhishek Verma to help freeze the blacklisting proceedings initiated by the Indian government against Rheinmetall for allegedly bribing an official of India's Ordnance Factory Board.
On June 8, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Abhishek Verma and his wife Anca Neacsu- the Managing Director of Ganton India for allegedly receiving kickbacks from the Swiss arms maker. The arrest comes following allegations that the duo transferred funds between Ganton India and its parent company Ganton USA, which are said to be the couple’s front companies.
The allegations were first leveled against him by a former business associate C Edmond Allen who has filed a series of reports with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CBI. The reports contain details of emails and financial transactions which Allen claims shows the money trail from RAD and several other defence companies.
Allen has further alleged that Ganton signed a deal with Hellenic Defense System based in Greece to receive a 10% commission on the guns sold through the state owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to the Indian army. He has also named a number of major arms makers such as Italian firm Agusta Westland, claiming Ganton would receive an 8% commission on helicopter sales, US firm Hawker Beechcraft has also come under the scanner for allegedly recruiting Verma to help bag Indian contracts.
Agusta Westland has since secured a contract to supply VVIP helicopters to India while Beechcraft has been eliminated from a competition to sell trainer planes to the Indian Air Force.
According to the allegations, funds were transferred through Ganton Limited to Verma Foundation in India, a ‘non-profit’ organisation controlled by the Verma family. The foundation, on its website, says, “Abhishek’s strategic focus on the defense sector business has taken shape with subsidiaries of Verma Foundation AG in Israel, USA and India that are defense contracting companies with revenues of in excess of US$ 2 billion”.
Ganton Defense Limited claims to have operations in 10 countries providing aerospace, naval, defense, information & electronic warfare solutions and services. The company’s website also says that it has a “global presence and spanning the entire value chain, from prime contracting to equipment”.
While the India’s defense deals are at an all time high, it appears that the shady underbelly of procurements and bribery scandals has emerged from the woodworks.
Verma is only the second suspected arms middleman to fall under the CBI scanner. In May this year, a case was filed against British national Ravi Rishi, chairman of the Vectra Group, for allegedly offering a bribe to then Army Chief, General V K Singh, to clear the purchase of all terrain Tatra trucks.
The Tatra trucks were sold to India through state owned BEML (Bharat Earth Movers Ltd), the CBI then questioned the chairman and managing director, V R S Natarajan, over the company’s involvement in the deal.
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