Sanjay Bhandari
Sanjay Bhandari | Youtube screengrab
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Offset India Solutions banned for 6 months after being issued a show cause notice in May. It’s being probed by CBI for links to Pilatus aircraft deal.

New Delhi: The defence ministry has suspended all business dealings with fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari’s firm Offset India Solutions (OIS). The firm is being investigated by the CBI for its links to alleged malpractices in the selection of a Swiss aircraft, Pilatus PC-7, to fill the Indian Air Force’s requirement for a basic trainer.

Bhandari is believed to be close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra.

In orders issued Friday, the ministry instructed all its departments and wings to suspend any business with OIS for a period of six months. The company is involved in executing offset contracts for several major global defence companies in India.

Bhandari, the main promoter of OIS, has been booked under the Official Secrets Act, after classified documents were found at his residence. However, he managed avoid investigators and escape to London in 2016.

“In accordance with the guidelines for penalties in business dealing and the fact that investigations are being carried out by CBI and Delhi Police into corrupt practices, unfair means and illegal activities followed by M/s OIS, the competent authority has decided that business dealings with M/s Offset India Solutions (P) Ltd, and its group companies/functionaries will remain suspended for a period of six months from the date of issue of this order or until further orders whichever is earlier,” an order of the defence ministry read.

Timeline of the case

Trouble for Bhandari started in May 2016, when his house and office were raided by the Income Tax department. During searches, several classified documents were recovered from the premises that led to another case under the stringent Official Secrets Act.

While Bhandari managed to escape to London in late 2016, the CBI registered another preliminary inquiry against him and partner Bimal Sareen for allegedly influencing the selection of the Pilatus PC-7 aircraft for the air force’s requirement of basic trainers. A former air force chief is also under the scanner for his role in this contract.

In May 2017, OIS was issued a show cause notice on why business dealings in defence procurements with all its associate and group companies should not be suspended or banned. A reply by the company was not been found to be satisfactory, following which the ban has been imposed.

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