The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a money laundering case against London-based engine-maker Rolls-Royce Plc. and its subsidiary Rolls-Royce India Private Limited for making dubious payments in the form of commissions in return for contracts from three state-run Indian companies, two officials familiar with the development said.
Also named in the case were Ashok Patni, director at Aashmore Private Limited, the Singapore-based company, and unnamed public servants. the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Rolls-Royce allegedly made payments in several tranches to Patni between 2007 and 2011 in bank accounts in Singapore and Hong Kong, which investigators suspect may have been routed to officials of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and GAIL India Limited as kickbacks.
ED’s case, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), is based on a first information report registered on July 29 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in which the latter invoked charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy for violating the terms and conditions of purchase orders and an Integrity Pact.
The agencies suspect that kickbacks for government servants were camouflaged as“commissions paid to Patni. The true beneficiaries are yet to be identified, said one of the officials cited above.
The anti-money laundering agency has already received relevant documents from CBI and is likely to soon summon executives of Rolls-Royce, H AL, GAIL and ONGC to provide more details of the contracts and the payments.
The second ED official said, “The payments made by Rolls-Royce are suspicious in nature. We will look into all the transactions including those made abroad”.
Rolls-Royce provided engine spare parts to HAL for servicing gas turbines used by GAIL and ONGC, both of which are involved in the oil and gas sector.
When contacted, a spokesman for Rolls-Royce refused to comment on the ED probe. HT tried to reach Aashmore’s office in Singapore on the telephone, but there was no response. Spokespersons for HAL, GAIL and ONGC refused to comment on the investigation.
At the time CBI registered its case, Rolls-Royce had issued a statement saying, “We will not tolerate business misconduct of any sort and we are committed to maintaining high ethical standards and no-one currently working for Rolls-Royce in India played any part in these Energy deals. India is an important market for Rolls-Royce and we have a valued workforce of skilled people in the country.”
As part of its money laundering investigation, ED will particularly look into payments worth Rs 18.32 crore by Rolls-Royce to Aashmore for 100 purchase orders from HAL between 2007 and 2011. It is estimated that HAL placed orders worth over Rs 4,700 crore with Rolls-Royce between 2000 and 2013.
The London-based firm was not supposed to engage any third-party/intermediary in the supply of materials/spare parts to HAL as per conditions of the purchase order and Integrity Pact but it did so to conceal the illegal payments made to Aashmore, investigators claim.
Similarly, Rolls Royce paid Rs 29.81 crore to Patni’s companies between 2007 and 2011 in 38 transactions for 73 purchase orders by ONGC.
Aashmore and another company linked to Ashok Patni – Turbotech Energy Services International Private Limited — made payments of Rs 10 lakh as “donation to a cooperative society of ONGC. called ONGC Officers Mahila Samiti, which was unethically accepted by the society”, according to the CBI case.
In case of GAIL, the CBI states, Rolls Royce paid 998,584 pounds to Aashmore between 2007 and 2010 for 68 purchase orders.