When asked about the purpose of his visit to Delhi, Former Defense Minister AK Antony lied to the media. He said that Sonia Gandhi had invited him to discuss the Congress presidential election. The truth is that the CBI court summoned him in the Tatra Truck scam case. Antony blatantly lied to avoid media questions about the corruption case.
Tatra Truck fraud was discovered in 2012. The Czech Republic manufactures Tatra trucks, and armies worldwide use them. Middlemen ensured that the Tatra trucks were supplied to Bharat’s Army at a very high price through a suspicious route. The trucks ultimately cost our Army between 100 and 120 percent more than the initial manufacture price.
Former Chief of Army Gen. VK Singh alleged that on September 22, 2010, at a meeting in the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) office, South Block, he was offered a bribe of Rs. 14 crores by Lieutenant General (Retired) Tejinder Singh. It was done on behalf of a middleman named Ravi Rishi (he died in 2016). In return for the bribe, Gen. VK Singh was to clear the file to purchase Tatra vehicles within a month.
After completing the investigation in the case, the CBI submitted the charge sheet to the court. This charge sheet also mentioned the former defense minister’s involvement in the scam. Antony was summoned by the Delhi Rose Avenue Court to explain his role in the fraud. In the UPA era, this Rs 750 crore worth of scam occurred in purchasing Tatra trucks and their components.
AK Antony was cross-examined by Senior Advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey and Advocate Anurag Andley. He claimed that Gen VK Singh never presented him with a written complaint. He also denied that VK Singh showed him any audio recording, which is why Antony took no direct action against Lt Gen Tejinder Singh.
Antony admitted in court that VK Singh discussed this case with him and informed him that he was offered a bribe. He identified Tejinder Singh as the individual who had made the cash offer. Antony claimed that he was ‘stunned’ and remained silent. Antony added that VK Singh had previously written to him and the Defence Secretary about scams like Adarsh fraud but not this time.
In 2019, the court filed charges against former Lt Gen Tejinder Singh for allegedly offering a bribe to ex-Army Chief General (Retd) VK Singh. Tejinder claimed not guilty and demanded a trial. According to the court’s additional analysis of the facts and circumstances, Tejinder Singh is prima facie guilty of an offense under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
There is no dispute that the file relating to the purchase of Tatra Trucks was under consideration on the relevant date. The appointment between Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh and Gen. VK Singh took place on the said date as per the record D-10 kept by the Army. Tejinder Singh, the alleged accused, hasn’t denied the meeting. The court stated that it is also evident that Gen. VK Singh had instructed his Military Attache JP Singh not to permit Tejinder Singh into his office. The trial continues.
Corruption in defense purchases was common during Congress regimes. Nehru had the Jeep scandals, Indira Gandhi was embroiled in the submarine scam, and Rajiv Gandhi had the ‘mother of all scams’ in the Bofors deal.
Rajiv was first charged with receiving Rs. 64 crores in kickbacks. Later, he was accused of shielding the principal defendant in this case, Ottavio Quattrocchi. He was an Italian middleman who maintained a close relationship with Rajiv through Sonia Gandhi. The Bofors scandal demonstrated how the corruption culture within Congress had infiltrated all levels, even implicating the Prime Minister of Bharat and his family.
Defense deal scams exploded during the Sonia-led UPA regime from 2004 to 2014. Antony was the defense minister from October 2006 till the day Congress was booted out from power in May 2014. His legacy saw the Adarsh Housing Society scam, AgustaWestland helicopter scam, and Scorpene submarine scam that saw an alleged Rs.500 crores in kickbacks to corrupt lawmakers.