BEML chief Natarajan suspended

BEML chief Natarajan suspended
The Defence Ministry has suspended Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) V R S Natarajan following a recommendation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is investigating the controversial Tatra military trucks supply deal.

The premier investigation agency, which got the Defence Ministry’s permission to probe the role of Natarajan in the alleged irregularities in procurement and supply of Tatra all terrain vehicles to Army, on Monday requested the government to suspend to ensure a “fair probe” into the case.

Last week, when the agency sought government’s permission to probe allegations against the BEML chief, it had also told the Defence Ministry that the presence of Natarajan as CMD of BEML was adversely affecting its probe, sources in the CBI said.

“The government has put the CMD of BEML V R S Natarajan under suspension following a recommendation by the CBI that he should be kept away from the post to ensure fair investigation. The CBI is currently investigating into various charges against Natarajan,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said here on Monday.

P Dwarkanath, who is a senior most functional Director in the BEML, has been asked to take charge as the CMD of the public sector unit, he added.

Natarajan is being questioned by the CBI for alleged irregularities in procurement and supply of Tatra to Army.  It is alleged that the public sector undertaking, under Natarajan, violated the purchase guidelines by placing orders on UK-based intermediary company, Tatra Sipox, not the original equipment manufacturer, based in the Czech Republic.

The CBI sources said that the BEML chief is suspected of diluting the original deal to give undue advantage to Tatra. This is separate from the case in which investigation was initiated by the agency after former Army chief Gen VK Singh alleged he was offered Rs 14 crore as bribe by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh to clear supply of a tranche of 600 Tatra military trucks from BEML.

The agency has already booked the BEML chairman for alleged cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption in connection with tendering process for hiring a private consultancy firm and carried out searches at several locations including his residence. This case is related to award of contract for the implementation of enterprises resource planning project in the public sector undertaking during 2004-09.

The CBI has come across prima facie materials which allegedly indicated Natarajan’s role in the case and the agency will soon call him for questioning on the basis of the documents and records it has collected so far, according to sources in the agency.

The CBI sleuths have also come across several instances where Natarajan allegedly bypassed the norms and interacted directly with the supplying firms on crucial negotiations without taking into confidence the Defence Ministry, sources said.

They said post-facto approvals were allegedly taken from the Defence Minstry by Natarajan on some crucial issues related to supply of all-terrain vehicles on several occasions, but refused to divulge more details in this connection.

Earlier Natarajan had served a legal notice on former Army chief Gen VK Singh demanding an apology for his alleged defamatory statements against the BEML on the Tatra truck deal issue. This prompted the Defence Ministry to issued a show cause notice to him later on June 6.
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