Army commander-in-chief General Vijay Kumar Singh claims that he was offered a Rs14 crore bribe by a equipment lobbyist to clear the purchase of 600 substandard vehicles for the forces.
General Singh reported: “One of these men had the gumption to walk up to me and tell me that if I cleared the tranche, he would give me Rs14 crore. He was offering a bribe to me, to the Army chief. He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me”.
The incident was brought to the attention of the defence minister Mr A K Antony who General Singh claims took no action.
Mr Antony said in a statement that these events happened “more than a year ago”. He recollects that he was shocked by General Singh’s report and told him to take action but General Singh did not want to pursue the matter for reasons unknown.
General Singh later informed a news channel that he could not take action because it was an “indirect offer” that left him “stunned”.
Mr Antony admitted that he “could have acted” independently, but as he had not received a written complaint he chose not to. “As a minister, I cannot act just on a complaint […] I did not get any written complaint at any stage […] I acted on my judgment. If I am wrong, you may punish me. I think I have done my best”.
Initially, General Singh did not disclose the name of the officer who allegedly bribed him, however, Army headquarters revealed that former chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh had allegedly “offered a bribe” on behalf of heavy vehicles manufacturer Tatra. General Singh later confirmed the identity in his written complaint to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who were ordered by the government to investigate the allegations.
Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh denies the accusations and has filed a criminal defamation case against General Singh and some other senior army officers for maligning his name and causing “immense incalculable loss and damage” to his reputation and future business prospects. He contends that: “I do not work for Tatra and I do not represent it. Therefore, it should be logical to assume that I could not have offered him such a huge amount as is being talked about”.
This was corroborated by the Defence public sector unit supplying Tatra trucks to the Army, who confirmed that they did not have any middlemen.
However, CBI sources have confirmed that they have received an audio tape from an anonymous individual of a purported conversation between General Singh and Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh, where the latter appears to offer a Rs14 crore bribe.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Prakash Javadekar, has raised the matter in Parliament.