New Delhi: The multi-crore Tatra truck scam threatening the army’s dignity could have been prevented if the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee would have paid heed to the complaints regarding anomalies in the deal in 2005.

The documents related to the probe point towards Pranab closing the investigation into the irregularities surfacing in the deal in 2005.

Reports of major irregularities in the Tatra truck deal had surfaced in the media in 2005 which made it clear that India was purchasing Tatra trucks through an agent and that the Tatra Sipox was not the original manufacturer of the trucks.

Also, the role of the public sector company BEML was merely to provide components and there was no transfer of technology in the process.

The same allegations have been mentioned in the CBI investigation which started on March 24. According to the documents available with Dainik Jagran, the Department of Defence Production had conducted a probe into the allegations which came to light in 2005. The Indian ambassadors in Bratislava and Slovakia were asked to submit a report in this regard while the management of Tatra Company was asked to present an explanation in the reported anomalies.

In the investigation report, it was said that Tatra Sipox UK was also conferred a certificate of the major equipment manufacturer. The ministry had arrived on this conclusion on the basis of the statement of Tatra Sipox Director Joseph Majiski that Tatra Sipox UK has the right to sign a deal on behalf of Tatra AS of Czech Republic.

Interestingly, the Defence Ministry gave importance to the statement of Majiski in its report who had served a jail term of 22 months in a financial fraud.

The report presented by the Indian ambassador says that the original equipment manufacturer was supplying the trucks through its own affiliated companies and that there was no other way to purchase the trucks.

However, when Indian envoy MK Lokesh (now Indian amabssador in Abu Dhabi) was contacted by Dainik Jagran, he said, “The case is old therefore nothing can be said in this regard.”
The report of the Department of Defence Production claims that the ministry has no other medium of purchasing trucks other than Tatra Sipox.

Denying the possibility of technology transfer in the deal, the department in its report and in the note written to the cabinet said, “The army’s order schedule has no resemblance with it. In the absence of sufficient demand for the trucks, the BEML cannot opt for a manufacturing unit of such trucks in India.”

Therefore, it can be concluded that the complaints and investigation were brought to the notice of the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee who ordered for its closure. BEML Chairman and Managing Director VRS Natrajan named in the scam are also giving a similar argument.

After partition of Czechoslovakia, Tatra company was also divided into two and both the companies are authorized to Tatra Sipox Ireland. However, the FIR filed by the CBI after the questioning of Natarajan did not seem to be affected by these arguments.