Fugitive middleman Sanjay Bhandari sues French firm for Rs 92 crore ‘commission’ in 2011 IAF deal

By The Print

Fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari has sued French firm Thales over €11m (Rs 92 crore) as “commissions” that he claims is owed to him in connection with a defence deal inked in India a decade ago, according to a report published in the United Kingdom Monday.

Bhandari, who is wanted in India under the Officials Secrets Act, is currently in the UK, where he has sought asylum. The deal in contention is the €2.4 billion contract to upgrade Indian Air Force (IAF)’s Mirage 2000 aircraft, which was signed in 2011 under the then United Progressive Alliance government.

The French firm, which is also part of the 2016 deal India signed for the delivery of 36 Rafale jets, is “facing allegations that it used a secret and illicit system of paying middlemen to secure lucrative international contracts”, said a report by the UK-based newspaper, The Telegraph.

Citing court documents, The Telegraph reported that Bhandari alleges he “helped” Thales to “sell the upgrade of the Mirage jets by facilitating a meeting” with a senior defence ministry official. Moreover, he claims that he was due a consultancy fee of “€20m but was only paid €9m”.

Bhandari has described himself in the lawsuit as a “well-known commercial intermediary involved in arms and defence in India”, who has “worked with major international defence companies to assist them in negotiating arms contracts with the Indian Ministry of Defence”. The lawsuit is ongoing and a judgment is expected later this year.

In a statement to ThePrint, the French firm said Bhandari filed a petition against Thales SA in a commercial court in June 2021 for the settlement of sums allegedly due to him on an aeronautical modernisation project.

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