Mumbai, March 30 : Defence Minister AK Antony was formally apprised of the Tatra trucks scam as early as 2009 but he turned a blind eye, says a report in the Mumbai newspaper DNA.
The newspaper says, it detailed this scam in a series of investigative stories in July 2011.
This assumes significance because Antony recently told Parliament that he didn't act when army chief General VK Singh told him he was offered a Rs14 crore bribe to clear the purchase of a tranche of substandard Tatra trucks because he didn't get a ‘written complaint'.
The report says, if a ‘written complaint' is what it takes to act, why didn't Antony or his ministry react when Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior Congress party colleague and then health minister, wrote to him on behalf of Sonia Gandhi requesting “necessary action” in the Tatra matter?
The newspaper report says, it has has a copy of Ghulam Nabi Azad's letter dated October 5, 2009.
The defence ministry's department of defence production replied on October 22, 2009, stating that the matter (Tatra trucks deal) is under investigation.
“I would like to inform you that the matter is being examined in this ministry… the examination may take some time. As such, the minister [Azad] will be communicated after detailed examination of the case at appropriate level.”
It has been over two years since and no formal investigation followed that initial response.
It started in August 2009, when Dr D Hanumanthappa, president of the Karnataka wing of All India Federation of SC/ST/Backward Class and Minority Employees Welfare Association, wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi stating that VRS Natarajan (BEML CMD) placed an order worth Rs6,000 crores for Tatra trucks from a UK agent and not from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in violation of defence procurement guidelines.
The letter enclosed a detailed submission from Ashok SN, then assistant general manager of BEML's ‘Trucks Division', that clearly established how BEML, the nodal agency appointed by the government to procure trucks for the Indian army, violated defence procurement guidelines in the purchase of Tatra trucks.
The newspaper claims it has a copy of this submission.
“I met Sonia Gandhi and defence minister Antony personally to hand over the complaint and they told me that necessary action will be taken. However, until today, I have not received any response on what happened to my complaint,” said Dr Hanumanthappa.
Azad then forwarded the letter to the defence ministry on behalf of the Congress president.
When the newspaper DNA asked Azad to comment on the letter, he said did not recollect its contents or the context in which he had written it and wouldn't be able to comment unless shown the letter.
“I wrote several letters after that, also specifically mentioning about the Tatra truck scam, but these leaders did not respond,” said Dr Hanumanthappa.
Besides Antony, even Law Minister Veerappa Moily was apprised of the scam.
Replying to a similar letter from Dr Hanumanthappa dated September 2, 2009, Moily said: “I am taking up the matter with the ministry concerned “. He also failed to do so.