Dealings of European missile manufacture under scanner

New Delhi: A leading European arms manufacturer MBDA, which supplies missiles for the Rafale jets, has come under the scanner of probe agencies here for its suspected links with lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who was extradited from Dubai last month.

The country head of MBDA, Loic Piedevache, has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate to appear before it on Monday in connection with the probe relating to the company’s links to Talwar, who is believed to have steered several deals with Airbus, which holds a stake in MBDA, during the UPA regime, according to sources.

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro had entered into a joint venture with MBDA to supply missiles and missile systems to the Indian armed forces.

L&T holds 51 per cent stake in the joint venture, L&T MBDA Missile Systems, and had identified defence as one of the key drivers for achieving growth in the sector.

The sources claimed that apart from questions on the company’s engagement with the Indian forces, Piedevache would also be questioned on the alleged payments to Talwar’s NGO. Advantage India, to the tune of Rs 88 crore between 2012 and 2015, from MBDA and Airbus.

Later, the entire money was said to have been withdrawn in cash by using “fake purchases”, the sources said.

Analysts said this was probably a rare occasion when the India head of a leading international firm was being summoned by a probe agency.

Piedevache has been heading the company’s operations in India for a decade. The Mirage upgrade programme and Rafale were signed during Piedevache’s tenure in India and he could be privy to information, the sources said.

“If required, the probe agency may also summon group export director Jean-Luc Lamothe. First of all, Piedevache would be asked to explain the company’s payments to Talwar’s NGO,” the sources said.

Piedevache could not be reached for his comments. An MBDA spokesperson said the company would support the authorities in their probe. It maintained that it had supported social development initiatives in India as part of corporate social responsibility, which included some payments to the NGO.

The company is involved in the Rs 30,000 crore offset programme associated with the 36 war planes.