NEW DELHI — The Indian government has asked the national anti-fraud agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to probe corruption charges against Embraer of Brazil surrounding the purchase of three EMB-145 aircraft from the company in 2008 by state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for its indigenous airborne early warning and control systems (AEW&C) program, according to a senior Ministry of Defence (MoD) official.
"The government will also use diplomatic channel to ask the US and Brazilian authorities on the matter," the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Embraer has been under investigation by the US Justice Department since 2010 after a defense contract with the Dominican Republic raised suspicions of kickbacks. The US investigation has extended to examine Embraer's business dealings with eight more countries, including Saudi Arabia and India.
Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo last week reported that the possibility of bribery in the 2008 Indian deal was on the US Justice Department's radar.
Embraer executives were unavailable for comment.
India's DRDO purchased three EMB-145 aircraft from Embraer in 2008 for $210 million for the homegrown AEW&C program to be used by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
"Referring the case to CBI will not produce immediate results, as the agency has taken several years to probe defense deals and at best it could only mean further delays in the homegrown AEW&C program for which the aircraft were bought," a senior IAF official said.
While a DRDO official claimed that the homegrown AEW&C program based on the Embraer platform is under progress and that one of the three systems will be delivered by year's end, the IAF official skeptical about the timeline. "The Integration of the radar, communications and control equipment is the main challenge," the IAF official said.
The DRDO official refused to comment on the kickback charges.
The Indian government had approved the AEW&C program in 2004 at a cost of $450 million and three aircraft EMB-145 were bought from Embraer in 2008. The first two customized aircraft were to be delivered in 2012. The aircraft are to be fitted with indigenous radars, communication and surveillance systems.
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.