The noose is tightening around Ravi Rishi, the NRI businessman who owns the UK-based Vectra group that sold Tatra trucks to the Indian Army, which are at the centre of the controversy surrounding Army chief, Gen VK Singh’s sensational allegation of bribery in the case. On Sunday, the CBI issued restraint orders to prevent Ravi Rishi from leaving the country. It also impounded his passport, and has indicated it will question him again.
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In his complaint to the CBI, Army chief General VK Singh has reportedly accused Vectra Group chief Ravi Rishi of attempting to bribe him and sending retired army official Lt General (retired) Tejinder Singh to offer it to him to clear a contract for acquiring trucks.
Was there a “communal conspiracy” behind the rejection of Army chief Gen VK Singh’s claims in respect of his date of birth, with the intention to promote Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army chief? That’s what a public interest petition filed by former Navy chief L Ramdas and others alleges.
CBI is investigating Venus Projects, a second company belonging to London-based businessman Ravi Rishi of Vectra group, after the NRI was named by Army chief Gen V K Singh as the person behind a Rs 14-crore bribe offer made to him in September, 2010.
Public Sector Undertaking BEML had supplied Tatra trucks worth Rs 5,000 crore to the Army by procuring them from Tatra Sipox UK, “emphasising” that it was dealing with a fully-owned subsidiary of the Czech manufacturers and not any agent or trading company. This information was false, the CBI has alleged in its FIR.
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is likely to order a fresh probe into the dealings of Tatra Sipox (UK), suppliers of controversial Tatra trucks, with the defence PSU BEML following the disclosure that the firm was a mere "manufacturers' agent".
The Union defence minister is either unaware of the defence audit wing’s warnings against the outdated and overpriced Tatra trucks or he is feigning ignorance. In fact, the audit wing, which comes under the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG), found in 2006 that orders for Tatra trucks were placed after considerable manipulation “to keep the production line of BEML alive”.