NEW DELHI: General VK Singh's allegations that he was offered a bribe on behalf of the makers of the Tatra trucks has opened a can of worms. Referring to Tatra, General Singh in a media interview had claimed that a lobbyist had offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear a procurement of tranche of 600 'substandard' vehicles.
In fact, the Tatra deal was always under scrutiny for its dubious shareholding and a possible loss to the Government.
The all terrain Tatra trucks, the Army's lifeline, are in use for over a decade. But General Singh is understood to have been opposed to the continuation of this deal.
In addition to alleging they were substandard, the Army Chief said he was offered a bribe by Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh on behalf of Tatra and Vetra, suppliers of the vehicles to defence PSU Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML).
The latest bribe allegation was just another controversy surrounding the deal.
The first agreement was signed in 1986 with Omnipol a Czech company. In 1992, after the bifurcation of Czechoslovakia, BEML starts buying trucks from Tatra Sipox UK.
Documents with CNN-IBN show 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.
Tatra Sipox balance sheets of then show it had a working capital of just 30 thousand pounds.
Its shareholder included an NRI Ravi Rishi and Joseph Majesky. The latter, according to Slovakian papers, faced jail term for siphoning funds.
Moreover, 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 concerned raised some questions.
* Who the original manufacturer of the truck was?
* What was the source of procurement?
* What was the price at which it was being procured?
* And what the role of Tatra Sipox UK was?
Within two months, as the documents show, the letter treated cancelled.
The holding pattern then further changed, and BEML signed a joint venture between Tatra and Vectra. The latter once again has Ravi Rishi as its major shareholder.
In 2003, BEML signed a 10-year agreement with Tatra Sipox (UK) to increase the scope of the relationship. As per rules, the Chief has to sign on the defence deal every year. The last time the deal was inked was in February 2010, by Genenral (Retired) Deepak Kapoor. The red flag was raised by General VK Singh later that year, shortly after he was alleged offered a bribe by Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh.