New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday raided the Bangalore office on Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) and seized the records related to the Tatra trucks deal, sources said. The investigating agency is likely to question BEML Chairman & Managing Director VRS Natarajan in connection with the deal.
The CBI has also sought Defence Ministry's help to study all contracts between Tatra Sipox UK and BEML, and BEML and the ministry over the past 20 years.
Sources say that CBI officials suspects that the contracts does not prove Vectra chief Ravi Rishi claims that Tatra Sipox UK is a marketing arm of Tatra Czech. The CBI is also scrutinising documents to see if BEML was aware that Sipox UK was not an original manufacturer of the all-terrain vehicles supplied to the defence forces, and if the defence PSU was aware how the deal with Sipox had been justified.
Rishi is likely to be questioned again on Wednesday. He has already been questioned by the CBI four times in connection with alleged irregularities in the Tatra truck supply to the Indian Army.
The CBI has also sought sanction of the Defence Ministry to probe Natarajan in some complaints in which preliminary inquiry has been registered by it.
The Tatra truck deal is at the heart of Army Chief General VK Singh's allegations that he was offered a bribe. The all-terrain Tatra trucks, the army's lifeline, have been in use for over a decade, but the General is understood to have been opposed to the continuation of the deal.
In addition to alleging they were substandard, the army chief has said he was offered a bribe by Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh on behalf of Tatra and Vetra, suppliers of the vehicles to BEML.
The first agreement was signed in 1986 with Omnipol, a Czech company. In 1992, after the bifurcation of Czechoslovakia, BEML started buying trucks from Tatra Sipox UK.
Documents with CNN-IBN show that Tatra Sipox UK was a London based trading company, not the original manufacturer, breaking the first rule of procurement which says " you must buy from the manufacturer.
Its shareholder included Rishi, an NRI, and Joseph Majesky. The latter, according to Slovakian papers, faced jail term for siphoning funds.
Apart from that, when BEML signed the MoU with Sipox, the firm was registered for providing 'spiritual, religious and social services.
The procurement from Sipox faced its first hurdle in 2003 when the Equipment Branch raised objects. In the letters, copies of which are with CNN-IBN, the officer asked:
- Who the original manufacturer of the truck was?
- What was the source of procurement?
- What was the price at which it was being procured?
- What was the role of Tatra Sipox UK?
Within two months, as the documents show, the letter treated cancelled.
Things got a little messier in 2003 when BEML signed a 10-year agreement with Tatra Sipox UK to increase the scope of the relationship. The defence PSUs claim was, since the bifurcation of Czechoslovakia, Tatra Sipox UK, the marketing arm had become a major shareholder in the Czech Reoublic based MS Tatra. And since BEML had been dealing with the marketing arm for all technical arrangements, they needed to ink a joint venture in national interest.
Surprisingly, Tatra Sipox UK records of that time dont seem to match the claims.
Company details accessed by CNN-IBN as late as 2004 show Tatra Sipox UK is a company based out of Richmond Surrey, but they have no overseas details.
According to them, there were no branches for Sipox UK and no previous names existed for the company for the last 20 years.
NRI Ravinder Rishi was a shareholder of Tatra Sipox UK who later went on to form the company Vectra with which too BEML formed a joint venture. Ironically, some of the allegations had already found their way in Czech media where the original manufacturer was facing charges of causing losses to the parent company because it was providing knocked down kits to India through a British intermediary " Sipox first and Vectra later.