Rahul Gandhi’s former business partner got defence offset contracts during UPA regime

Rahul Gandhi's former business partner got defence offset contracts during UPA regime

The co-promoter of Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s UK firm Backops Limited, UK acquired defence offsets under the UPA regime. Ulrik Mcknight was 35% co-owner of Backops UK, in which Rahul Gandhi owned a majority 65% equity between 2003 and 2009 before the firm was wound up. Mcknight later went on to acquire offset contracts from French defence supplier Naval Group against Scorpene submarines in 2011.

Subsidiaries associated with Rahul Gandhi’s former business partner received defence contract as an offset partner of the French firm Naval Group during UPA regime, documents accessed by India Today indicate. While BJP and Congress party have been at loggerheads on the issue of Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s citizenship issue, documents released by both the parties have established that Rahul Gandhi did open a company named Backops Limited in UK in partnership with an individual named Ulrik Mcknight.

According to filings made by the Backops UK, Rahul Gandhi and Mcknight were the founding directors of the company where Gandhi owned majority 65% shares and Mcknight owned 35% shares as on June 2005. According to election affidavit filed by Congress president in 2004, Rahul Gandhi declared movable assets belonging to Backops Europe, including bank balance in its three accounts.  This company was dissolved in February 2009.

Rahul Gandhi has also been associated with a company with similar name Backops Services Private Limited where his sister and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra served as a co-director. Rahul Gandhi in his election affidavit of 2004 declared that he owned 83% shares in this Indian firm and had made a capital investment of Rs 2.50 lakh in the same. Incorporated in 2002, this company was too dissolved later and its last returns were filed in June 2010. However, Rahul Gandhi’s former business partner and his future companies went to benefit from offset contracts given by French defence company.

Curious case of Rahul Gandhi’s business partner

The Defence Deal

In 2011, as part of its offset obligations, French defence manufacturing company Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS) had signed a contract with Visakhapatnam-based Flash Forge Private Limited for the supply of critical parts for the Scorpene submarines being built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). The French firm was under contract to work with MDL to build six Scorpene submarines under a contract worth approximately Rs 20,000 crore. In the same financial year, the Indian firm Flash Forge acquired a UK based company named Optical Armour Limited. Next year in November 2012, two of Flash Forge directors were given directorship of Optical Armour Limited. On November 8, 2012, the day these two individuals assumed the directorship of the UK Company Ulrik Mcknight was also given directorship of the company. That’s not all, according to the filings made by Optical Armour in 2014 McKnight was allotted 4.9% shares by the firm.

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Flash forge acquired another UK based company named Composit Resin Developments Limited in 2013. In the same year, Mcknight also joined the company as one of the directors along with two directors from Flash Forge Limited. According to websites of Naval Group, their India partners include Flash Forge and CFF Fluid Control Private Limited (a joint venture between Flash Forge and another French group Coyard). India Today could not reach Mcknight for a comment, this article will be updated if he makes a statement.

While Indian and European companies associated with Rahul Gandhi were dissolved before the French company Naval Group engaged in a contract with Flash Forge, the fact that Congress president’s former business partner benefited through the European subsidiaries of an Indian offset partner which was contracted during UPA era is bound to open a Pandora’s box.