New Delhi: Even as Defence Minister AK Antony is seeking to assure transparency in defence procurement, it appears that he may have more to explain, especially in the controversial Tatra trucks deal.
According to documents available with DNA newspaper, Antony knew of the Tatra trucks scam as early as 2009 but he chose not to act on the matter.
This is in contrast to his claims made in Parliament that Army Chief General VK Singh had informed him in September 2010 that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear the purchase of a tranche of 600 Tatra trucks.
Antony had told Parliament that he had asked the Army Chief to act in the matter and take action against the person guilty, but the latter chose not to pursue it. Due to this, Antony said, he could not act as he had not got any “written complaint”.
However, DNA reports that Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, also a senior Congress party leader, had written to Antony on October 5, 2009 on behalf of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi seeking “necessary action” in the Tatra case.
The Defence Ministry’s Department of Defence Production had even replied on October 22 that year stating that a probe was underway into the Tatra trucks deal.
“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,” the letter stated.
Azad’s letter followed a complaint made in August 2009 to Sonia Gandhi by Dr D Hanumanthappa, president of the Karnataka wing of All India Federation of SC/ST/Backward Class and Minority Employees Welfare Association, alleging the BEML was purchasing Rs 6,000 crores worth of Tatra trucks from a UK agent and not from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), which was against established defence procurement rules.
BEML is the nodal agency appointed by the government to procure trucks for the Indian Army.
Dr Hanumanthappa says he had “met Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister Antony personally” and got assurance of necessary action in the matter. “However, until today, I have not received any response on what happened to my complaint,” he said.
Apart from Antony, even then Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily was made aware of the scam.
Moily too had assured Dr Hanumanthappa of action in the matter but nothing happened on that front too.
Following the fresh revelations, the opposition BJP today demanded Antony`s resignation.