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    Tatra trucks case: AK Antony okayed Ravi Rishi's prosecution in February


    Antony's action came in response to a letter forwarded to him by Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was in charge of Congress' affairs in Karnataka, in October, 2009.

    ET Bureau
    NEW DELHI: Defence minister AK Antony had sanctioned prosecution of Ravi Rishi, the London-based PIO who is an accused in the case of alleged irregularities in the purchase of Tatra trucks, a little over four weeks before the Army chief, General VK Singh, went public with his allegation that he had been offered a bribe of 14 crore for clearing "a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles".

    General Singh, who leveled this allegation in an interview to a leading national daily on March 24, also pointed out that 7,000 of those sub-standard vehicles were already in use in the Army and had been sold over the years at exorbitant prices.

    The bribery charge triggered an uproar in Parliament, forcing Antony to order a CBI probe into it. But what he failed to mention that he had already sanctioned the prosecution of Rishi, the owner of Vectra group, on February 21 this year. His action came in response to a letter forwarded to him by Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was in charge of Congress' affairs in Karnataka, in October, 2009.

    The letter, which was redirected by Antony to defence production secretary on the same day, had travelled a long way. It was written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in August, 2009, by D Hanumanthappa, president of the Karnataka branch of the All India Federation of SC/ST/Backward Classes and Minority Employees Welfare Association, and highlighted the charge that BEML CMD VRS Natarajan had placed an order worth 6,000 crore for the purchase of Tatra trucks from a British agent and, not from the original equipment manufacturer, which was, he alleged, a violation of procurement guidelines.

    On its receipt, Sonia is said to have marked the letter to Azad, who was in charge of the party's affairs in Karnataka. The latter is learnt to have forwarded it to the defence minister. Antony, it now transpires, sent it to the defence production secretary for an internal probe into the bribery charge the day he received it from Azad.

    After conducting an inquiry on his own, the defence production secretary, it is learnt, reported to Antony that a case could indeed be made out against Ravi Rishi who, contrary to initial media reports, was not an NRI, but a person of Indian origin (PIO) settled in London.

    The case was subsequently referred to CBI, which registered a preliminary enquiry into the allegations. As it was aware of the contours of the case, the probe agency swung into action after it came to know that Rishi was planning to undertake a trip to India to participate in Defexpo India 2012, the country's biggest-ever land, naval and homeland security systems exhibition, which was inaugurated by Antony on March 29.

    CBI registered an FIR into the case on March 20 and, two days later, it issued a lookout notice to prevent Rishi from leaving the country. He has already been grilled by the investigating agency at least six times since then.

    The Economic Times