NEW DELHI: With an extremely poor track record of probing defence bribery scandals, the country may have a special team to investigate such cases. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is contemplating a proposal to constitute the team.
The proposal came up for discussion at a meeting in the Cabinet Secretariat recently where key officials suggested an independent team, which can be tasked to investigate only the high-profile scams that have hit the corridors of the defence ministry. Investigators can be drawn from the CBI to coordinate with the ED, to follow the money trail involved.
The government is planning to launch a special team only to investigate defence scandals. This comes in the backdrop of allegations of Brazilian aviation major Embraer hiring a UK-based agent and paying commissions to swing the $208 million deal for three Emb-145 aircraft inked with India during the UPA rule in 2008. The Defence Ministry has forwarded the matter to the CBI, which has filed a preliminary inquiry and initiated a probe.
From 1986 Bofors, HDW submarine, Tatra to AgustaWestland, Indian investigators have miserably failed on prosecution as majority of the scams hit dead-end and closure was filed by investigating agencies. Government believes that such scams not only bring bad image to the country, but also causes embarrassment globally. The only roadblock, however, will be sparing officials from the CBI, the federal agency which is already short-staffed. In a recent affidavit in the SC, the CBI informed that it has 50 per cent of its staff on deputation and has a vacancy of 754, against its sanctioned strength of 4,544. Of these, 283 vacancies are at the levels of inspector, 195 of constable and head constable, 65 at deputy and additional superintendent of police, 41 at SP and senior SP level and 12 are of Deputy Inspector General.
“Repeated failure of investigating agencies especially in probing defence scams is surely a cause of worry for the government, as it creates a lot of hype. Forming an independent team of selective officials to handle bribery allegations in defence deals will be an option, as most of these probes require overseas intervention,” said a high-ranked official. It ultimately turns out to be diplomatic loss of face for the government after naming foreign companies and middlemen during the course of investigation.
Like in the recent case of AgustaWestland choppers, despite so much of noise in Parliament, CBI has failed to arrest anyone.