The controversial Tatra truck deal claimed its first casualty on Monday with the defence ministry suspending BEML chief VRS Natarajan — the subject of a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged scam.
The ministry took the step after the investigation agency sought Natarajan's removal to ensure a fair probe, a spokesperson said. P Dwarkanath has been given Natarajan's charge.
Natarajan told reporters in Bangalore, "I respect the government's decision. I will come out clean." He was appointed the BEML chief in December 2002.
Meanwhile, the CBI has received sanction from the Ministry of Defence to probe Natarajan's alleged role in irregularities linked to supply of Tatra trucks to the Indian army after 2003. Such a sanction is required in cases when the suspect is a bureaucrat of or above the rank of a joint secretary.
"We sought the sanction since the CBI wants to probe his role in irregularities related to the supply of Tatra trucks after 2003 as a result of which the vehicles’ supplier, Vectra, is suspected to have benefited while the BEML suffered losses," said the source. The agency had earlier quizzed Natarajan in his capacity as the BEML's representative in connection with its probe into irregularities related to supply of Tatra trucks.
Former army chief General VK Singh had alleged in March that he was offered R14-crore bribe by a retired officer to buy 600 "substandard" Tatra trucks for the army in 2010. The army had alleged in a press release on March 5 that former defence intelligence agency chief Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh (retd) had offered the bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited, which supplies Tatra vehicles to BEML.
General VK Singh (retd) and four other army officers were issued summons by a local court last week in a criminal defamation case filed by Tejinder Singh.
A day after General VK Singh demitted office on May 31, Natarajan served a legal notice on the former chief, demanding an apology from him.