US probes Airbus for corruption; links to Indian NGO, AI deal

The US Department of Justice’s probe into ‘improper practices’ followed by Airbus, one of the aircraft manufacturers that has supplied to many Indian carriers, could make a landing in India as links to the previous government’s aircraft purchase are under scanner.

While Airbus may face fines of several billion dollars, the French newspaper Le Monde reported from Paris that the US probe had found several corruption allegations in multiple countries, mostly in Asia, including India and Malaysia.

Le Monde said Airbus allegedly used CSR activities and the setting up of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul to channel funds to middlemen. It also mentioned the case of Deepak Talwar, a corporate lobbyist, who is under probe by CBI and ED for allegedly misusing funds received through CSR from Airbus in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

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Newswire service AFP, reporting from Paris, said Airbus had put out a statement saying it was cooperating with US authorities.

Meanwhile, Indian investigators independently investigating the deal told the Indian Express on the condition of anonymity “Our investigation into the acquisition of aircraft is at an advanced stage. We have been able to establish financial trails of money flowing into certain NGOs. These NGOs were floated by middlemen and the money came from aircraft manufacturers supplying to the Indian carriers.”

Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials Thursday said their investigation into alleged money laundering in connection with the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines and acquisition of 111 aircraft by the two carriers during the UPA regime had made headway with the detection of a money trail.

The ED has registered four cases of alleged money laundering in the matter.

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In September 2016, The Indian Express reported that funds donated by Airbus and MBDA, Europe’s leading missile manufacturing company, to Talwar’s NGO Advantage India had come under the scanner of the Income Tax department. The payments were made to Advantage India between June 2012 and April 2015 in several tranches by MBDA and the erstwhile EADS which in 2014 was reorganised as the Airbus Group.

In November 2017, CBI registered a case of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy against Talwar for allegedly diverting foreign funds received by his NGO for personal use, Indian Express reported. It said Advantage India received funds to the tune of Rs 90.72 crore from Airbus and MBDA. The funds had been received as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the two donors and were meant for activities in the field of education.

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