Can anything put India’s defence middlemen out of business?

01 September 2013

| ONE |

FOR A FEW HOURS ON A FRIDAY EVENING in March, the ballroom of London’s ritzy Westminster Park Hotel was worth more than 15 billion pounds. Or so proclaimed the organisers of the 16th annual Asian Business Awards, who had assembled some of the United Kingdom’s wealthiest South Asians and those who wished to network among them, promising “a unique platform for companies to engage with High Net Worth Individuals and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals from across the globe”. Among the men in tuxedos and the women flashing enormous diamond solitaires were NRI tycoons like the Hinduja brothers (who edged past the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal to top this year’s “Asian Rich List”, released in conjunction with the awards), the generic pharmaceutical billionaire Yusuf Hamied, and the Labour Party parliamentarian Keith Vaz. The UK’s home secretary, Theresa May, was the night’s guest of honor. It was, more or less as advertised, a gathering of “Britain’s most high-profile and affluent Asian business moguls with an eclectic guest list of politicians, film stars, sporting celebrities and key influencers within the community.”

Awards were handed out for the Businesswoman of the Year, the Nursing Home Operator of the Year, the Social Entrepreneur of the Year, and a half-dozen other categories. But the night’s highest honour was the award for lifetime achievement, which went to Sudhir Choudhrie, the vice-chairman of C&C Alpha Group, who was introduced as “a pioneering entrepreneur with interests in hospitality, health care, aviation and real estate”. Choudhrie, a dapper man of 63 with a plume of graying hair, walked up to the stage after a flutter of warm applause and collected his honour from Theresa May. After the awards ceremony came to a close, the evening’s final event was a 20-minute conversation between Choudhrie, Cipla’s Yusuf Hamied, and Gopichand Hinduja, moderated by the BBC 1 host DJ Nihal.

Toral Varia Deshpande is a trainee staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: corruption military business defence middlemen AK Antony Sudhir Choudhrie Suresh Nanda Bofors scam Operation West End