Indian-born millionaire and Lib Dem donor arrested over Rolls Royce bribery scam

Archana Venkatraman

An investigation by Serious Fraud Office into alleged bribery in Rolls Royce’s Asia contracts has led to the arrest of Indian-born multi-millionaire Sudhir Choudhrie and his son Bhanu Choudhrie in the UK.

Choudhrie is a well-known political donor supporting Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrat party.

Sudhir Choudhrie at the 2013 Asian Business Awards
Sudhir Choudhrie at the 2013 Asian Business Awards
Image: YouTube (CCAlphaGroup)

The arrests on Wednesday 12 February, came after the SFO, UK’s anti-fraud watchdog, examined the aerospace and defence firm Rolls Royce's contracts won in Asia in the last three years -- after Britain's new Bribery Act came into effect in 2011, according to newspaper reports.

While the Indian-origin father-son duo have denied of any wrongdoing, their spokesperson has confirmed the arrest and added that the millionaire duo are cooperating with the SFO investigation.

In 2012, the SFO ordered Rolls Royce to hand over details of its dealings in Asian countries such as Indonesia and China over corruption allegations.

Lib Dems, part of the ruling coalition government, are now under pressure to explain their close links with Choudhrie, one of its biggest donors. The party has received more than £1.5m from Choudhrie since 2004 with about £500,000 in 2010 alone.  He was even on the Lib Dem list for future peers.

Sudhir Choudhrie, 65, lives in a £5m Chelsea property since he moved to London from India more than ten years ago. Along with his son, he owns C&C Alpha Group, a UK-based firm with investments in aviation, healthcare, hospitality, property sector and utilities. The company turned over £89m in the financial year 2012-13 and employs over 1,300 staff. His family business also runs hospitals and care homes.

An asset manager, an investment banker, an arms dealer and a philanthropist, Choudhrie was named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards in 2008. He is involved in humanitarian work with several organisations in the UK and in India. He is known as Bunny by people close to him.

The Choudhries were questioned for several hours on Wednesday in relation to the engine deals in Asia but have since been left on bail.

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