India's major defence scams: Bofors, Barak missiles, AgustaWestland choppers & more

The Bofors scandal rocked Congress in the 1980s as the opposition attacked the government sensing a smoking gun.

Bofors howitzer scam

The Bofors Howitzer guns controversy began in the 1980s and continued to hit the headlines decades later. It all began in 1986 when India signed a $285 million deal with Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of Howitzer guns for the Indian Army.

The deal however snowballed into a major bribery scandal as local Swedish reports claimed Bofors had bribed Indian politicians to secure the deal. The CBI lodged an FIR in 1990 naming the high profile Hinduja brothers for criminal conspiracy.

A CBI chargesheet against Ottavio Quattrocchi, alleged middleman Win Chadda, former defence secretary S K Bhatnagar and Hinduja brothers created a political storm in India.

However, by 2011, a CBI court discharged Quattrocchi. The Italian businessman passed away in 2013. The court had earlier given a clean chit to former PM Rajiv Gandhi. In 2005, the Delhi High Court had dismissed the CBI case on Bofors.

(Photograph:AFP)

Bofors and Ottavio​​​​​​​ Quattrocchi

The Bofors scandal rocked Congress in the 1980s as the opposition attacked the government sensing a smoking gun. The Bofors scandal became a major election issue in the 1989 elections as Rajiv Gandhi's government lost power.

Ottavio Quattrocchi emerged as a controversial figure in Indian politics.

In 2002, the Delhi High Court quashed proceedings in the Bofors case, however, in 2003 the Supreme Court reversed the order. Quattrocchi was tracked by Indian authorities for several years. The Italian was tracked down in Argentina but the Indian government lost the extradition case.

The Bofors guns were used widely during the Kargil conflict in 1999 and is an important part of Indian Army's arsenal.

(Photograph:AFP)

Scorpene submarine scam

The Scorpene submarine scam was another deal that became a political hot potato. The deal dated back to 2005 when the then defence minister and former President Pranab Mukherjee approved the submarine deal with French company Thales.

A case was filed in 2007 in the Delhi High Court to investigate whether bribes were paid as arms dealer Abhishek Verma's name cropped up in the scandal amid allegations that $175 million was paid to him to influence decision-makers even though Thales denied the charges.

The name of Ravi Shankaran also came out during the scandal who was related to ex-Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash. A UK court however rejected CBI's plea to extradite him.

The case dragged on for years in the Delhi High Court and it was finally dismissed in 2016 and Verma was absolved.

(Photograph:AFP)

AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam

The AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam was another deal that caught everyone's attention. The helicopter deal was signed by the Indian government in 2010 to carry the prime minister, president and VVIPs.

However, the deal ran into trouble after the chairman of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and CEO of Agusta Westland Bruno Spagnolini were arrested on charges that they bribed middlemen to clinch the deal. The Indian government launched a probe into the deal and in 2014 the deal was cancelled.

(Photograph:AFP)

Christian Michel extradited

The issue rocked Parliament as names of top politicians came up as the role of ex-IAF chief S.P. Tyagi figured in the controversy. The former IAF chief was later acquitted. After sentencing and appeals, the Italian courts cleared Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini.

Indian authorities however got hold of Christian Michel an alleged middleman in the deal. Michel, a British citizen, was deported from the UAE in 2018 and is currently in judicial custody. He is accused of arranging kickbacks for Indian officials to secure the deal in 2010.

(Photograph:AFP)

Barak missile deal

The Barak missile deal scandal came out 2001 after it was alleged politicians and other individuals were involved. The Israeli missile deal contract was signed in 2000 by the Indian government. A CBI report in 2006 claimed former defence minister George Fernandes and ex-Indian Navy Admiral Sushil Kumar were involved in the scam.

However, after a long investigation in 2013, the CBI said it had not found any evidence as the Indian government ordered for more missiles to be brought. The missiles are now a key part of India's arsenal.

(Photograph:AFP)

Rafale fighter jets

The Rafale fighter jet has been at the centre of political storm in recent years. After a long drawn out battle, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no corruption case in the Rafale jet deal and dismissed all review petitions in 2019.

The deal hit the headlines due to cost escalation issues, however, after years of wrangling in 2016, India and France signed a contract for the acquisition of 36 fighter aircraft.  

India's top court dismissed all allegations linked to pricing and selection of partner paving the way for India to acquire 36 Rafale aircraft. The Indian Air Force began inducting the fighter jets last year.

(Photograph:AFP)

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