In his statement, seen by The Telegraph, Mr Bhandari alleges that from 2008 he helped Thales sell the Mirage aircraft upgrade by facilitating a meeting with then Indian Secretary of Defense KP Singh. He claims he was supposed to pay an advisory fee of € 20million, but was only paid € 9million.
Mr Bhandari alleges this was due to political factors in 2016, when he was close to the Indian Congress Party. Around this time, the ruling BJP party, which supports Prime Minister Modi, began to persecute him, he claims. He fled to the UK where he is currently fighting extradition on unrelated issues and seeking political asylum.
Mr. Bhandari is wanted in India for tax evasion and money laundering. India is requesting his extradition from the UK and a hearing is scheduled in London in the coming weeks. He claims the charges against him are part of a plot by BJP supporters to discredit him because of his ties to the former Indian administration.
But it is the allegations that will emerge in Mr Bhandari’s lawsuit against Thales that could embarrass the French defense industry which has close ties to the government.
In his summons, Mr. Bhandari states that he was informed by François Dupont, then Managing Director of Thales India, of a secret financial scheme developed in India and Dubai which allowed the payment of secret commissions to intermediaries.
“This arrangement was presented as being a common practice within the Thales group for the payment of commercial intermediation services, taking into account the regulations in force in France”, indicates the complaint.
A special subsidiary called Thales Middle East & Africa would have been in charge of the deployment of these financial structures. Among the directors of Thales were the chairman of Thales Air Systems, Guy Delevacque, and François Dupont, then managing director of Thales India.
Initially, it was agreed with India that under the Mirage 2000 modernization contract, Thales would set up a technology transfer that would benefit local Indian industry. Part of the funds received was to be set aside for this purpose. But those funds were in fact mainly used by Thales to make indirect payments to intermediaries who were lobbying foreign governments, according to the lawsuit.