In his claim, seen by The Telegraph, Mr Bhandari alleges that from 2008 he helped Thales sell the upgrade of the Mirage jets by facilitating a meeting with the then Indian Defence Secretary, KP Singh. He claims that he was due a consultancy fee of €20m but was only paid €9m.
Mr Bhandari alleges this was due to political factors in 2016 when he was close to the Indian Congress Party. At this time the ruling BJP Party, which backs Prime Minister Modi, started persecuting him, he claims. He fled to the UK where he is currently fighting extradition on unrelated matters and is claiming political asylum.
Mr Bhandari is wanted in India for alleged tax evasion and money laundering. India is seeking his extradition from the UK and a hearing is due in London in the next few weeks. He claims that the charges against him are part of a plot by BJP supporters to discredit him because of his links with the previous Indian administration.
But it is the allegations that will emerge during Mr Bhandari’s case against Thales that could embarrass the French defence industry which has close ties to the government.
In his writ, Mr Bhandari states that he was told by François Dupont, then managing director of Thales India, about an elaborate financial covert scheme in India and Dubai which enabled the payment of secret commissions to intermediaries.
“This arrangement was presented as being a standard practice within the Thales group for the payment of commercial intermediation services, taking into account the regulations in force in France,” the claim states.
A special subsidiary called Thales Middle East & Africa is alleged to have been in charge of the deployment of these financial structures. The Thales executives included the president of Thales Air Systems, Guy Delevacque, and François Dupont, then managing director of Thales India.
Initially, it was agreed with India that as part of the Mirage 2000 modernisation contract, Thales would set up a technology transfer that would benefit local Indian industry. Part of the funds received were to be earmarked for this purpose. But these funds were in fact mainly used by Thales to make indirect payments to middlemen who were lobbying foreign governments, the lawsuit claims.
A Rafale jet flies and three Mirage 2000-N jets fly over the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Bastille Day 2011