In a major development, the Ministry of Defence has imposed a ban on all business dealings with fugitive arms dealer, Sanjay Bhandari’s firm Offsets India Solutions (OIS).
The Defence Ministry order banning all business dealings with Bhandari’s firm read, “It has been decided with the approval of competent authority to extend the period of suspension of business dealings with Offset India Solutions (P) Ltd and it’s groups companies/functionaries until further orders. All wings of the ministry and service headquarters are requested to ensure strict compliance of the decision.”
A ban was imposed on his firm for the first time in February 2018 for a period of six months. However, this order by the Ministry of Defence has extended the ban indefinitely. All business dealings with the company would remain suspended until any further decision. Bhandari is being investigated on several counts by Indian agencies. He managed to abscond from India following raids at his residence and offices by investigative agencies and is currently residing in London.
It must be noted that this is not for the first time that Bhandari has come in the limelight. In the past, he came to limelight on account of his proximity to Congress leaders and suspected business dealings with Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law, Robert Vadra. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it was reported that Robert Vadra’s close aide Sanjay Bhandari was in the race for Rafale deal and to be the offset partner of defence manufacturer Dassault. Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat had stated, “Sanjay Bhandari, who would book plane tickets for Vadra, get the interiors of Vadra’s London flat done, and handle his real estate deals, was seen with him at the Dubai Defence Expo. The Gandhi family wanted that the deal should be through Vadra’s company.”
After the MoU between Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries and Dassault for the Rafale deal had lapsed during the UPA era, Bhandari’s company, Offsets India Solutions (OIS) had approached Dassault for a possible tie-up. It has been reported by the Economic Times that there was “considerable pressure” for a slice of work. Therefore, as opposed to prime minister Modi intervening in favour of Reliance, it was during the UPA government that the Dassault was pressurized to choose OIS, one of whose promoters was Bhandari, a close aide of Robert Vadra as its offset partner. However, when Dassault came to know about Bhandari’s closeness to Robert Vadra, it ruled against any partnership with OIS. Moreover, after 2014 the electorate completely discarded the Congress and all attempts to compel Dassault into making OIS its offset partner failed miserably.
In the month of December last year, the ED carried out raids at multiple places linked to Robert Vadra. As usual, it drew massive protest from Congress accusing the government of political vendetta. Raids were carried out at Sukhdev Vihar, New Delhi, Bengaluru and also the residence of his associate in Noida. The raids were conducted in the case of purported commission by arms deal Sanjay Bhandari in defense deals.
Apart from this, in a preliminary inquiry of 2012 Pilatus aircraft deal, CBI found the involvement of fugitive defense dealer Sanjay Bhandari who has family relations with Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi. Pilatus paid 7,50,000 Swiss Francs to Bhandari’s Offset India Solution Pvt Ltd as commission. Recently, the Enforcement Directorate revealed that Robert Vadra, brother in law of Congress president received direct payment of 300 crore rupees from Pilatus Aircraft limited.