Neeraj Chauhan, TNN | Apr 26, 2012, 02.43AM IST
NEW DELHI: The CBI’s probe into the Tatra scam is spreading internationally, with the agency finding clues of a far more sophisticated web of money transfers than what was presumed until now. The agency is set to issue Letter Rogatories (LRs) to Hong Kong and Singapore, where it believes NRI businessman Ravi Rishi, the key figure behind Tatra trucks’ supply to the Indian Army, had complex financial operations, and some of which could be linked to the Tatra contract.
Army chief General V K Singh in his statement to the CBI had claimed that he was offered Rs 14 crore by Lt Gen Tejinder Singh on behalf of Rishi, and he was told that officers before him have collected similar bribes. It is possible, sources admit, that Rishi could have been transferring money across secretive tax havens to pay off some of his Indian contacts. CBI has already issued LRs to Czech Republic, Slovakia, the UK and Liechtenstein, seeking details of Rishi’s companies and trusts. Sources said Rishi has been operating companies in both Hong Kong and Singapore for the past several years, and may have been transferring money from these countries to tax havens and other destinations.
ToI has already reported that he operated at least one trust in Liechtenstein since 1986, and this trust had been controlling at least one of his Hong Kong firms.
Besides, the CBI has established that the “supply of Tatra trucks to the Army was very irregular since 1997” and that “indigenization process of the Tatra was very slow”, said sources, indicating that the noose may be tightening around some BEML officials.
According to sources, BEML chief V R S Natarajan failed to give satisfactory response on both the counts during his questioning by the CBI. On Wednesday, BEML’s director (finance), J B Diwale, was questioned for several hours. The CBI is now certain, based on documents from the UK, that Tatra Sipox was just an “agent” for the manufacturing company. Indian military procurement rules do not permit dealings with agents.