CBI probes Tatra truck deal; conducts search at four places
After registering a case against unnamed officials of the Defence Ministry, Army, BEML and Vectra for alleged criminal conspiracy to cheat and indulge in corrupt practices, CBI officials carried out searches at four places in Delhi, Noida and Bangalore.
The FIR also names Vectra group Chairman Ravi Rishi, who is a majority stake holder in Tatra, and the agency is looking into purchases from 1997 onwards.
CBI sources said British national Rishi, who is in the national capital for the Defence Expo, was called for questioning in connection with the alleged irregularities in the deal.
As CBI teams began with the searches, the Defence Minsitry came out with a statement saying the Defence Minister accorded his sanction for a CBI investigation on February 21, 2012, much before the case hit the headlines in the media.
A day after receiving a letter from Ghulam Nabi Azad, on October five, 2009, forwarding the complaints of D Hanumanthappa, addressed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi on BEML, Defence Minister A K Antony had asked the Secretary (Defence Production) to look into the various issues raised in the complaint.
"Records show that the vigilance wings of MoD and BEML are examining the matter and there are also correspondence between CBI and Chief Vigilance Officer of BEML on these allegations," the Defence Ministry statement said.
The deal came to limelight again as the Army chief alleged he was offered a Rs 14 crore bribe to clear a file related to purchase of trucks.
Reacting to alleged involvement of agents and lobbyists in placement of orders for the Tatra trucks, state-owned BEML chief V R S Natarajan has said "in the last 26 years, from 1986 onwards, BEML assembled manufactured, supplied 7,000 Tatra trucks. All of them have been done on single nomination basis, single inquiry basis.
"This type of equipment nobody in the world makes, because of its superior technological features. When I am the single vendor and there is no competition, there is no influence required," he said.The names of Tatra and Bharat Earth Movers Limited were taken by the Army in a press release issued by it on March 5, alleging that retired Lt Gen Tejinder Singh had offered a bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited.