Tatra truck deal: CBI questions Ravinder Rishi
New Delhi: Vectra chairman Ravinder Rishi was today questioned by the CBI in connection with alleged irregularities in the supply Tatra all-terrain trucks as it prepares to quiz the BEML Chairman V R S Natarajan tomorrow. 57-year-old British national Rishi, named as an accused in CBI`s FIR in alleged irregularities in purchase of the Tatra trucks, has now been quizzed seven times at the CBI headquarters here. Rishi has a substantial stake in Tatra Sipox UK.
Natarajan has been asked to appear before the agency tomorrow. CBI has registered a case naming Rishi and unnamed officials of Defence Ministry, Army and BEML on March 30 for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. CBI is probing alleged irregularities in assigning of supply from Czechoslovakia-based Tatra, with which the agreement was originally signed in 1986, to the Tatra-Sipox UK owned by Rishi in 1997 showing it as original equipment manufacturer and the fully-owned subsidiary of Czech company, they said.
A CBI spokesperson had said this was against the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure for supplying the vehicles to Indian Army on the basis of the orders placed by the Ministry of Defence. "It is further alleged that in this manner, vehicles worth thousands of crores of rupees have been supplied to the Indian Army. In continuation of the aforesaid conspiracy to cause undue benefit to the UK-based company, the unknown officials of the Defence PSU allowed change of currency from US Dollar to Euro and further by not levying the Liquidated damages, thereby causing further loss of Rs 13.27 crores," the CBI spokesperon had said.
Rishi had termed the allegations against him as unfortunate, saying the trucks were sold through public sector undertaking BEML. He also said the charges levelled with regard to Tatra trucks by Army Chief Gen V K Singh that they were "sub-standard" and that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear the deal of 600 such trucks were baseless. Natarajan has also refuted the alleged involvement of agents and lobbyists in placement of orders for the Tatra all-terrain trucks.
"In last 26 years, from 1986 onwards BEML assembled manufactured, supplied 7,000 Tatra trucks. All of them have been done on single nomination basis, single inquiry basis. This type of equipment no body in world makes, because of its superior technological features. When I am the single vendor and there is no competition, there is no influence required," he had said. The BEML chief had said that "there is no need for BEML to influence. Not a single TATRA representative has ever marketed the product (trucks)."