Companies associated with the son and a close relative of Sudhir Choudhrie, an Indian origin British citizen currently being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) and whose name figures in CBI’s list of “undesirable” middlemen, received over a hundred million dollars from Russian arms companies in 2007-08.
We accessed a confidential report commissioned by Credit Suisse that shows the Choudhrie “family group” – as the report described it – had 18 accounts in the bank. The accounts are, jointly or individually, in the names of Chaudhry’s son, Bhanu Choudhrie, and his cousin, Aman Chopra.
Russian companies that made the payments include MiG Corp, Rosoboronexport and NPO which have significant business interests in India. The Credit Suisse report does not link payments to any specific defence deal in India. But it notes the payments are “incoming funds from clients’ offset business”. In the AgustaWestland corruption case, part of the payment to middlemen were described as offset payments, according to the judgment of an Italian court.
Offsets are defined as compulsory spending foreign defence firms selling equipment to India have to undertake for sourcing local material.
Rosoboronexport is a Russian government entity in charge of military exports. All Russian military deals with India are routed through this entity. MiG Corporation makes MiG fighter jets, which are part of Indian Air Force’s fleet. In January 2010, India decided to purchase 29 MiG 29K fighters for close to $1.2 billion. NPO is a leading space and rocketry company in Russia. The Indian-Russian BrahMos joint venture was established with NPO.
Our detailed questionnaire sent to Rosoboronexport and the London-based Choudhrie family didn’t elicit any response. In response to our questions, a Credit Suisse spokesperson replied: “As a matter of principle, Credit Suisse does not comment upon its actual, potential or rumoured client relationships. Credit Suisse complies with applicable rules and regulations related to Anti Money Laundering”.