The CBI on Tuesday charged Lieutenant General (retd) Tejinder Singh with allegedly offering a Rs. 14-crore bribe to then army chief VK Singh in 2010, on the basis of circumstantial evidence that includes then defence minister AK Antony’s statement.
The alleged offer was made to clear the purchase of 1,676 “sub-standard” Tatra-BEML trucks at a time when VK Singh — now a minister of state at the Centre — had sought a review of acquisitions from the trucks’ manufacturer, said the charge sheet, which was submitted in a city court. It was filed under section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and alleged the offer was made on behalf of the trucks’ suppliers.
Antony confirmed to the CBI that the former chief had complained to him about the bribe offer, allegedly made on September 22, 2010, and asked him to “pursue” the matter, a CBI source said. VK Singh, too, had maintained that he had verbally informed Antony within hours of the incident.
“Former defence minister Antony’s witness statement forms a vital part of our case against the retired lieutenant general. It corroborates the chain of events… given to us by former army chief VK Singh,” said the source.
Calling the charge sheet “politically motivated” and an “abuse of power”, Tejinder Singh told HT, “My interaction with the agency clearly indicated there was no credible evidence. Now, with a change of government, there seems to be a change of heart in the agency.”
HT was the first to report on May 6 that the CBI had recorded Antony’s statement in the Tatra case.
He told the CBI he had made a statement in Parliament in March 2012 about the alleged bribe offer and ordered a CBI probe, the source added.
The CBI launched its probe in October 2012 on the defence ministry’s request. Since the alleged offer was made inside the army chief’s chamber, no eyewitness accounts were available and a purported recording of the conversation, provided by VK Singh, did not prove useful.
“Among other key evidence are versions of the then army chief’s personal staff, who said that after the meeting in which the bribe was offered, the former army chief instructed them to never again let the accused into his official chamber,” the agency source said. VK Singh had told the CBI the alleged offer had left him seething and he had thrown the accused out of his office.