India's Enforcement Directorate last month sent notices to seven people, including a top Airbus executive, accusing them of money laundering in an US$1billion aircraft deal to former state-owned Indian Airlines in 2005, the Economic Times of India (ET) reported.
Airbus executive vice-president Kiran Rao was among those sent a notice by the economic intelligence wing of the government last month, the report added.
The paper quoted a person with direct knowledge of the matter as saying that the deal involved the supply of 43 Airbus A320s passenger aircraft and that all seven accused would soon be questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi.
“We understand that some of the accused are currently not present in India, but they will be required to come to New Delhi soon.” The lawyers and legal advisors of some of the accused have had interrogations scheduled, the person said.
The ET report said that in 2013 the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had initiated investigations into alleged irregularities in the order for the 43 A320s and questioned seven executives of the former Indian Airlines, which merged with Air India, also state-owned, in 2007.
Rao is in the crosshairs of the Indian government
The allegations included corruption and favouring the French company over its rivals, the report added.
Rao, former president of Airbus India, had been named as one of the co-accused in the case, and in 2014, CBI personnel had even flown to London to question him, ET reported at the time. But the investigation agency had not made any allegations of kickbacks or money laundering against Rao.
Airbus seeks a clear break
The earlier ET report said that CBI had sent officials to examine Rao in connection with the case as some clarifications were needed on alleged non-fulfilment of conditions in the supply contract.
Bengaluru-born Rao, a well-known face in the international aviation industry, had been tipped to replace John Leahy as sales head of Airbus early last year, but this didn’t happen, according to a Reuters report.
It said Airbus had been searching for a sales head after Leahy retired, as “the aerospace group seeks a clean break from turmoil over investigations into the use of middlemen.”
At the time, a spokesman for Airbus confirmed to the Press Trust of India that Airbus was cooperating with the investigation.
Nol van Fenema