The CBI today searched the premises of two retired Army officers and questioned BEML Chairman VRS Natarajan for nearly six hours in connection with its probe into alleged irregularities in the procurement and supply of Tatra all-terrain vehicles to the Army.
Teams of CBI officials carried out searches at the residence of retired Brigadier P C Das at Vasant Kunj in south Delhi and retired Colonel Anil Dutta at Noida, CBI sources said.
Later, Das was grilled by sleuths at the CBI headquarters in connection with the case.
Residential premises of Vectra executive Anil Mansaramani at Noida were also searched by the agency, they said.
CBI suspects that post-retirement, Das and Dutta allegedly used to liaison for Vectra in the Army and were in touch with Mansaramani although sources clarified that there was nothing against the officers during their service.
Vectra, which has controlling stake in Tatra Sipox UK has come under CBI scanner over alleged irregularities in the supply of all terrain vehicle components to the public sector BEML which assembles and supplies these vehicles to the Army.
Meanwhile, the CBI today continued with the questioning of BEML Chairman Natarajan for the second consecutive day and quizzed him for nearly six hours at the agency Headquarters. Vectra Chairman Ravinder Rishi was also questioned for the ninth time today, they said.
After getting inputs from the duo, the agency found it necessary to search the residences of the retired Army officials and the Vectra employee to gather some crucial documents, which could help the agency in the case, they said.
Natarajan and Rishi have refuted the allegations of any wrong doing.
The agency has registered a case naming Rishi and unnamed officials of the Defence Ministry, Army and BEML on March 30 for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and also under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The agency 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 an original equipment manufacturer and the fully-owned subsidiary of Czech company, which was against the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure, the sources said.
"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 the 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.