First,it was the offer of a Rs 14-crore bribe for the purchase of trucks that he attributed to his former colleague Lt General Tejinder Singh. Then he sent a letter to the Prime Minister on what he called were glaring gaps in the Army. Now Army Chief General V K Singh has lobbed yet another corruption bomb, this time in the court of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
He has brought out a May 2011 letter he received from Trinamool MP Ambika Banerjee and asked the agency to probe the MPs complaint against Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag. Lt Gen Dalbir Singh is commanding the Dimapur-based 3 Corps and is in line after Lt General Bikram Singh to be the Army chief.
The forwarding of the MPs letter to the CBI is set to open up another can of worms. For,the MP has made a series of allegations of procurement scams in the secret Special Frontier Force when Lt Gen Dalbir Singh was its Inspector General including alleged payoffs for the purchase of night-vision devices,communication systems,weapons as well as parachutes.
The MP has also named Army officers,including a former Army Chief,who he has alleged received crores in kickbacks for defence procurements and amassed huge disproportionate assets. These issues,he said,have been raised by him in letters to the Government. Banerjee has also named agents who he claims dealt with these procurements.
The Army chiefs latest complaint reached the CBI headquarters yesterday,barely a day after a team from the agency visited the South Block office of the Army Chief to commence the probe into the bribery charges made by him. It arrived in the form of a covering letter signed by General V K Singh,requesting the CBI for a detailed inquiry into Banerjees letter. The timing of the MPs two-page letter being sent by the Chief just under a year after it was written to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister A K Antony is significant given the fact that General Singh is known to be opposed to the appointment of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh as one of the Army Commanders while the Ministry of Defence is backing it.
In his letter,the Trinamool MP makes many allegations regarding procurement by the SFF when Lt General Dalbir Singh was its Inspector General. But the Army Chief has,in his covering note,claimed to the CBI that the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of a senior Army officer who was on deputation to the guerrilla force was downgraded by the IG who was then Major General when the officer did not succumb to pressures of the cartel which wanted to sell parachutes to the force.
The Army Chief has not named this officer but has said that he received a representation from him. At the same time,the Chief has asked the CBI to inquire into the allegations of widespead corruption in procurements in the SFF and Army as listed by the MP.
When contacted by The Indian Express,Banerjee confirmed that he had written such a letter of complaint to the Defence Minister last year. He said: I had received a response from the Ministry of Defence that the allegations would be inquired into but I have not heard from the Government ever since.
The CBI is in the process of ascertaining what action can be taken and will evidently,ask the Ministry of Defence for an inspection of relevant files of procurement mentioned in the letter. With the SFF being categorized as a secret force under administrative control of the Reserach and Analysis Wing (R&AW),the CBI may have to deal with the Cabinet Secretariat while asking for the documents of parchute purchases and the role of the Army officer in detecting the fraud.