Lack of special team makes government cock a gun with aim to probe defence deals, kickbacks

Published: 18th September 2016 09:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2016 09:29 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: With an extremely poor track record of probing defence bribery scandals, India may get a special team to investigate such cases. The Central government is contemplating a proposal to constitute the team. The proposal came up for discussion at a meeting in the Cabinet Secretariat recently. The independent team can be tasked to investigate only high-profile scams that have hit the corridors of the defence ministry. Investigators can be drawn from CBI, who will coordinate with the ED, to follow the money trail involved.

Lack.jpgThis 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 registered a preliminary inquiry and initiated a probe.

The roadblock will be sparing officials from the CBI, which is short-staffed. In a recent affidavit in the Supreme Court, 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.

“Repeated failure of investigating agencies, especially in probing defence scams, is a cause of worry for the government, as it creates a lot of hype. Forming an independent team 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.

In the recent case of AgustaWestland choppers, despite so much of noise in Parliament, CBI has failed to arrest anyone. Officials maintained that the CBI’s failure to nail arms dealers, especially in tracking down movement of kickbacks, is the biggest problem. Kickbacks are moved through tax havens, where real owners of firms and beneficiaries hide behind several layers of secrecy, the official added.

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