New Delhi: Army Chief General VK Singh has not said who offered him a bribe of 14 crores, or which company the man represented. But earlier this month, the Army released a statement that alleged a retired officer, Lt General Tejinder Singh had been offering kickbacks on behalf of Tatra-Vectra, a company that has supplied 7000 trucks to the Indian Army.
The chairman of Vectra told NDTV today that he does not know Tejinder Singh, has never met him, and that no money was offered by his company to the army chief. "We have never employed Lt General Tejinder Singh. Vectra does not work with consultants and commission agents in India," said Ravinder Rishi. He also said that Tatra supplies trucks to 30 militaries across the world and does not need to offer kickbacks to win contracts.
Tejinder Singh has sued the Army Chief for defamation on account of the Army's press release. He has also said that he did not offer General Singh a bribe. Defence Minister AK Antony says that the chief did name Tejinder Singh when he briefed the minister about the kickback that had been offered to him in his office. The meeting took place in September 2010, six months after General Singh became the chief. He referred to the offer of the bribe on Monday, provoking a huge controversy.
In addition to the corruption that is allegedly embedded in many defence contracts, General Singh's disclosure has brought into focus the repeated concern expressed by many military experts about Tatra trucks. They were sold to the Army, a Right To Information (RTI) appeal reveals, at about 80 lakhs each - twice their cost in Europe. For 25 years, the London-based company had a monopoly on supplying the all-weather all-terrain trucks to the Army through BEML, a defense public sector unit. Then, in 2010, the rules were modified to introduce a bidding system. Among the contenders now for the contract are Tata, Ashok Leyland, and Tatra, which has not been blacklisted despite complaints about its performance, and the Army's allegation earlier this month of the company offering bribes.
In his interview to a newspaper on Monday, the Army Chief said the 14-crore kickback was offered by a lobbyist who wanted him to sanction the purchase of 1600 "sub-standard" trucks.
Mr Rishi says that the Army Chief's criticism is biased because he wanted to give the contract to another company. "This is all hearsay," he admitted, but added, "I believe it."