‘No violation of rules, as Tatra Sipox (UK) sold directly to BEML'

Taking forward its probe in the Tatra truck deal case, the CBI on Tuesday questioned V.R.S. Natarajan, Chairman and Managing Director of BEML, and a former official of the company.

Mr. Natarajan appeared before officials probing the case at the CBI office here.

CBI sources said the former Director of Procurement, V. Mohan, was also summoned.

They said some issues needed clarification, including the reason for the renewal of the supply contract with Tatra Sipox UK in 2003, much before it was required, and payment details.

The CBI has alleged that since Tatra Sipox UK was not the original maker of these all-terrain trucks, the rule that defence procurements be made from original manufacturers was violated, a charge denied by Vectra.

In a statement, Vectra said there were a complex set of circumstances, starting with the split of Czechoslovakia. Tatra trucks were made in two plants: the first, where cabins and engines were made in the Czech Republic, and the second, where axles and chassis were made in Slovakia.

“In 1994, TS (UK) was formed by the owners of the Slovak factory, Tatra Sipox a.s., and appointed authorised vendors by Tatra a.s. and Tatra Sipox a.s. Both OEMs… were part of TS (UK), as the political situation made a complete aggregation of truck components impossible otherwise,” it said. Now TS (UK) was a single window for offering the BEML technical support and transfer of technology, and it developed new products on behalf of both factories. So, it was more than a “trading company.”

“There is no violation of the defence procurement rules, as … Tatra Sipox (UK) sold to BEML” and not directly to the Ministry of Defence; furthermore, it was an authorised vendor.

Countering the charge that its trucks were sold three times the original price of Rs. 40 lakh, and this caused the exchequer an estimated loss of Rs. 750 crore, the company said TS (UK) sold to BEML, and the price between the defence public sector undertaking and the Ministry was not under its control. The parts and components were sold to BEML at normal company prices.

On the allegation that Lieutenant-General (retd.) Tejinder Singh was lobbying for Tatra trucks and offered a bribe to Army Chief General V.K. Singh, the company said no member of Vectra had “ever met this individual, and he has never worked with Tatra, nor has he been given any mandate on behalf of Tatra.”

Referring to reports that despite being sold to the Army for long, the trucks were not indigenised enough, with the vehicles still having left-hand drive, it said that 60 per cent of these trucks were indigenised, with the 4x4 and 6x6 vehicles having right-hand drive. The 10 x10 and 12 x12 vehicles were specifically designed by Tatra, along with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, for India's missile programme.

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