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Embraer case: Court seeks status report from CBI, asks how much more time to complete probe

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NEW DELHI, Feb 27: A special court here has asked the CBI director to file a status report in the Embraer aircraft deal corruption case, noting the probe is not complete even after seven years and no purpose will be served to proceed with the trial with a “half-baked case”.

The agency had filed a charge sheet against arms dealers Arvind Khanna, advocate Gautam Khaitan and businessman Anup Gupta on June 1 last year in the corruption case where kickbacks to the tune of USD 5.76 million were allegedly paid to swing a three-aircraft deal with the DRDO in favour of the Brazilian firm.

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The court had taken cognisance of the charges against the accused last year, but the trial could not proceed because the CBI did not apprise the court of how much more time was required to conclude the investigation.

Underlining that the investigation is not complete even after seven years of registering the case, special judge Gaurav Rao said, “Let a detailed report be filed by the IO (Investigating Officer), duly forwarded by the Director CBI, as to how much time he requires to conclude the investigation as the reports already filed so far are almost verbatim of the previous reports.”

During the hearing, Khaitan’s lawyer Ramaditya Tiwari argued the investigation is running in oblivion and the CBI, being the premier probe agency, needs to give a time frame. The precious time of the court and the resources are wasted otherwise, he said.

Tiwari cited a Delhi High Court order in which it laid down that if the investigation is not complete, then argument on charge should not be heard in haste, and the trial court should put up the question to the investigation team about the status of the probe.

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The Special Judge said, “The CBI and Investigation Officer state that they cannot specify the exact time in which the investigation shall be concluded however, it is stated that all efforts shall be made to conclude the investigation at the earliest.”

Undoubtedly, investigation is the sole prerogative of the investigating agency, but there has to be an end to it at some point in time, the judge said. “No purpose whatsoever shall be served in going ahead with the trial of a half-baked case,” he said.

The agency has dropped proceedings against Vipin Khanna, am accused named in the FIR, because he had passed away.

The CBI had told the court during a hearing last year in October that the replies of Letters Rogatory from Brazil and the UAE are still awaited, and only partial execution reports from the UK and Singapore have been received.

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It said the investigation has been still kept open to ascertain the role of other persons, including public servants, M/s Embraer and its officials and also to ascertain the end use of the commission amount.

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

The CBI has alleged that the kickbacks worth USD 5.76 million were allegedly routed from the subsidiaries of Embraer to Vipin Khanna through Singapore-based Interdev Aviation Services Pvt Ltd to be used for influencing officials in the Defence Ministry and the DRDO.

In its FIR, the CBI also booked two companies — Brazil-based Embraer and Singapore-based Interdev Pte Ltd — in connection with the alleged corruption in the deal.

The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry in September 2016 after a report in a Brazilian newspaper alleged that Embraer had used the services of middlemen to clinch deals in Saudi Arabia and India. It was converted into an FIR on October 18. 2016.

According to India’s defence procurement rules, middlemen are strictly barred in such deals.

The CBI has said that due to alleged mediation by Vipin Khanna, DRDO officials moved a proposal for the purchase of aircraft from Embraer on a single vendor basis.

“It was also alleged that in lieu of facilitating the agreement/deal between Brazil-based firm and DRDO (India), the firm paid an amount of USD 5.76 million (approx) to the said middleman (Khanna) through Singapore-based company during the year 2009,” the CBI spokesperson had said after the filing of the FIR. (PTI)

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