In its written communication to the CBI,the Ministry of Defence has asked for a comprehensive inquiry into the allegation of bribes being offered to Army Chief General V K Singh on behalf of vehicle manufacturer Tatra Vectra Motors.
The word comprehensive,in fact,is repeated more than once in the communication the CBI received on Monday,although the only annexure supplied at this stage is a copy of the newspaper report containing the interview with the Army chief in which he has made the allegations.
While a CBI team,headed by a special director,had a preliminary meeting with the Army chief on Monday,he has promised a complete set of documents on the case only later in the week. With the directions of the MoD for an omnibus inquiry clear,CBI officials confirmed to The Indian Express that all aspects of the deal with Tatra Vectra Motors (the first agreement was signed in 1986 with Tatra Sipox) and maybe,the allegations of the retired Army officer being involved in irregular purchase of off-the-air interception equipment for the Army,will be probed as well.
Senior CBI officials said they would shortly exercise either of two options in the bribery allegation. While giving his statement to the CBI,should the Army chief directly name the officer who had allegedly offered the bribe,the agency will register a regular case that is,file a First Information Report in court and commence gathering of evidence. However,should the chief stop short of naming anyone,the agency would only register a preliminary enquiry and commence investigations on the identity of the bribe giver.
What is significant is that besides probing the allegations of bribery,the CBI will have a difficult task on its hands given the fact that the ownership pattern of the foreign collaborator for the vehicle import changed so frequently and that the Indian partner in the deal,BEML,earlier faced allegations about why they had gone in for a third party agreement. The agreements and contracts in the deal have been signed with companies located in the Czech Republic,Slovakia and the UK with the ownership of certain companies shrouded in a complex structure of investments finally ending in Lichtenstein.
It is now the Army chief himself who has raised the issue of the exorbitant price of the Tatra Vectra all terrain vehicles,given the fact that several manufacturers are now ready to supply compatible trucks and transporters with a Rs 30 lakh each cheaper price tag. The latest offer to have reached the MoD was apparently from a newly set-up Indo-Russian Joint venture,Ural-India.
It was in March 2010 that the MoD placed a fresh order for 788 vehicles,with a delivery schedule of 18 months. Those in the know say that several key MoD officials raised objections on file on the manner in which the on-going agreements have been going on with Tatra-BEML and that competitive bidding for the vehicles should now take place. These documents,possibly,are the ones which will now be handed over to the CBI.