Defence Ministry bans fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari’s firm indefinitely

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Defence Ministry bans fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari's firm indefinitelyThe Defence Ministry has indefinitely banned all business dealings with a company owned by fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari who is being investigated by Indian agencies on several counts, including fixing of a deal for basic trainers for the Indian Air Force.

Bhandari, who was close to Congress leaders and is suspected to have business dealings with Robert Vadra, managed to escape India following raids at his residence and offices and is currently residing in London.

While his company Offsets India Solutions (OIS) had been barred from business first in 2018, the suspension was only for six month periods. In a new order issued today, the defence ministry has extended the period of suspension of business with OIS and its group companies and functionaries 'until further orders.'

“All wings of the ministry and service headquarters are requested to ensure strict compliance of the decision,” the order, which has been approved by top ministry officials and has been sent to all departments, reads.

OIS and its affiliates were involved in offset contracts for foreign original equipment manufacturers and had business interests linked to several major defence deals inked by India during the UPA regime, Bhandari, who was the most visible promoter of the company, has been charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) after classified documents were found at his residence during raids in 2016.

Besides the OSA case, the CBI has filed a preliminary enquiry against him and his company for using undue influence in the selection of the Pilatus PC 7 aircraft for the Indian air force.

Offsets India Solutions also tried to get business from the Rafale fighter jet deal and had applied 'considerable pressure' for a slice of the work, according to key negotiators that ET has spoken with. Though a few rounds of talks were held, the French side decided against the OIS option, with the perceived closeness its promoter Bhandari had with Vadra being a strong factor.