The CBI is gearing up to finalise the chargesheet in the Tatra truck procurement scam and tighten noose around former BEMl chief VRS Natarajan. The agency is likely to arrest Natarajan, who has been named in five cases other than the one for supply of Tatra all-terrain vehicles to the defence PSU. Natarajan is also a named accused in the cases relating to the recruitment scam in BEMl and bogus invoicing for mining areas for testing of earthmoving equipment, sources said. He is alleged to have raised invoices for mining areas which were not permitted for such activities as per the environmental laws.
The CBI team from Delhi had questioned Natarajan and another former BEMl CMD TVS Shastry in Bangalore last week and received documents relating to the relevant period. Natarajan had not only inked but also perpetuated the contract of UK-based Tatra Sipox with BEMl for supply of the all terrain vehicles in contravention of the defence procurement rules that stipulate acquisitions only from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Tatra Sipox was allegedly not an OEM. The OEM of the iconic trucks is Tatra a.S., a Czech firm. He is also suspected to have downgraded the General Staff Qualitative Requirements to suit Tatra Sipox.
BEMl procured the Tatra trucks for supply to the Army. Apart from other violations allegedly weaved into the contract for the supply of the vehicles, the defence PSU also allegedly did not carry out the indigenisation of the specialised trucks despite investments for the same by the BEMl.
During earlier rounds of questioning Natarajan was also confronted with Vectra Group boss Ravi Rishi, a named accused in the case for procurement the trucks. Natarajan had allegedly renewed the supply contract with Tatra Sipox in 2003 much before it was required in 2006 and despite lapses being pointed out in the procurement of the vehicles by the Comptroller and Auditor General in a report in 2000.
In 1997, Tatra Sipox UK had signed the truck supply deal with BEMl and Natarajan was instrumental for this. As many as 500 trucks (that cost the exchequer Rs 80 lakh apiece) are lying unused for want of spare parts, 3000 completely knocked down kits (CKD) were procured without the necessary gearbox leading to unnecessary piling up of unwanted inventory. However, the payments have been fully accounted for in the BEMl books, CBI sources added.