CBI will probe Gen Singh's bribery charge

Alleged bribe-giver to sue Army chief

CBI will probe Gen Singh's bribery charge

Corruption in the defence forces came back to haunt the government on Monday as Army Chief Gen V K Singh made a stunning disclosure that he was offered a bribe by a retired Army officer, following which Defence Minister A K Antony ordered a CBI probe.

In his sensational allegation, Gen Singh claimed he was offered Rs 14 crore as bribe in return for clearing a lucrative contract for purchasing below-quality military vehicles for the Army. The Army chief said that the person who offered him the bribe stated, “People had taken money before you and they will take money afterwards.”

While Gen Singh did not disclose the name of the person who made the offer, a PTI report said (retd) Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, whose name had earlier cropped up in media speculation as the one the Army adduced to, denied the charge.

“Having retired two years ago... In the wake of these allegations, some allegations have been made against me, which I must humbly say that I totally deny,” the agency quoted Lt Gen Singh as having said. Speaking to Deccan Herald over phone, Lt Gen Singh said he was “soon going to take legal action against the persons concerned, including the Army chief”. Lt Gen Singh, who retired as director general of the Defence Intelligence Agency in July 2010, said the reply to his legal notice to the Army chief was “not satisfactory” and that was why he was moving court.

Deccan Herald had reported on March 7 that a retired Army Lt General tried to influence Singh in order to secure a contract for Tatra 100 trucks manufactured by a Czech company. At that Lt Gen Singh had denied these allegations.

As both Houses of Parliament were repeatedly adjourned in the morning, with BJP-led Opposition attacking Antony for creating the mess in South Block, the minister ordered a CBI probe to look into “all aspects” of the allegation, officials said.

The CBI had been instructed to complete the probe at the earliest, sources said, indicating that the defence ministry would like to have the probe report before Gen Singh retired on May 31.

A CBI spokesperson confirmed receiving an official communication from the defence ministry on Monday.

Parliamentarians from the Congress, BJP, and other parties severely criticised Gen Singh and Antony for not taking any action against the bribe-giver as the Army chief claimed that he reported the entire incident to the defence minister soon after the bribe offer was made.

The incident reportedly took place about a-year-and-a-half ago, though there is no official confirmation on the date either. Let Gen Singh, however, told Deccan Herald that the last he met Gen Singh was in August 2010.

On not filing a case against the bribe-giver, the Army chief defended himself, saying he was too shocked to react. He aired his defence through a series of selective media interviews.

Reliable sources claimed Antony could not take any action on the bribery complaint because Gen Singh did not back up his oral complaint with a written one.

Though the Army chief did not disclose the make of the vehicle for which he was offered the bribe, it is reliably learnt that he meant Tatra trucks, which is being used by the Army for more than two decades. The trucks were to be procured via the Bangalore-based Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML).

Gen Singh said the vehicles were being sold over the years at exorbitant prices with no questions asked and there was no proper facility where they could be serviced and maintained.

But a defence ministry official claimed that the ministry received no complains from the Army on the Tatra trucks, about 7,000 of which have been supplied by BEML since 1987.

“We never received any complaint from the armed forces. Tatra trucks are being used by the armed forces since 1986. The after sales services and replacement issues are being taken care of by BEML, Bangalore,” Ministry of Defence (Land Systems) Joint Secretary Rashmi Verma said at a press meet on Monday.

India signed an agreement with Czechoslovakia-based company Omni Pol in 1986 for production of Tatra trucks at BEML. After the agreement expired in 1996, a second pact was inked with UK-based firm Tatra-Sipox for producing similar vehicles at BEML.

A global tender to buy 1,600 Tatra trucks through a competitive bidding process opened for the first time in 2011, she said.

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