CBI on Monday received the Centre's nod to probe the alleged role of suspended BEML Chairman VRS Natarajan in connection with alleged irregularities in supply of Tatra all-terrain vehicle supply to the Army.
The agency had sought the permission of the Defence Ministry under section 6A of The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act which mandates permission of the central government before initiating proceedings against an official above the rank of Joint Secretary.
CBI officials on Monday received the sanction from the Defence Ministry clearing the deck for probing his alleged "individual" role in the irregularities into the deal, agency sources said here.
CBI has come across prima facie material which indicates his alleged culpability in the case and the agency will soon call him for questioning him on the basis of those documents and records, CBI sources said.
They said they have come across several instances where Natarajan allegedly bypassed norms and interacted directly with the supplying firms on crucial negotions without taking into confidence the Defence Ministry.
Sources said in several instances, post-facto approvals were allegedly taken from the Defence Minstry by him on some crucial issues related to supply of all-terrain vehicles. The sources, however, declined to give details of such instances.
They said besides seeking permission to probe his alleged role in the case, they had also told the Defence Ministry last week that the presence of Natarajan as Chairman-cum-Managing Director of BEML was adversly affecting its probe.
CBI sources said they have also gathered material which shows Natarajan had taken several decisions which allegedly resulted in losses to the exchequer in the deal.
Natarajan had joined BEML Board from December 1, 2002, as Chairman and Managing Director and was instrumental in reviving the contract for supply of Tatra all-terrain vehicles, procured from Tatra Sipox UK, to Indian Army.
CBI sources said they have already questioned him thrice in connection with the case but that was related to the overall deal in his capacity of Chairman of the PSU and not about his individual role.
The agency may also question some serving and retired senior officials of BEML as well as those of the Ministry of Defence and the Army, they said.
The agency is probing alleged irregularities in supply from Czechoslovakia-based Tatra, with which the agreement was signed in 1986, to Tatra-Sipox UK owned by Rishi in 1997 showing it as original equipment manufacturer and the fully-owned subsidiary of the Czech company which was against rules, they said.
The agency has found that despite transfer of technology agreement with Tatra in 1986, the indeginisation of these vehicles remained far below satisfactory, they said.
CBI has also booked the BEML chairman in a separate case for alleged cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption in connection with the tendering process for hiring a private consultancy firm and carried out searches at several locations including his residence.
The case related to award of contract for implementation of Enterprises Resource Planning Project in the public sector undertaking during 2004-09.