Kamaz trucks and the Vectra connection

Lalit Shastri

kamaz trucksKamaz Group, Russia’s largest manufacturer of trucks, is all set to resume assembly and sale of heavy duty vehicles in India later this year.

Reinforced KAMAZ trucks are used by the Russian army and now the company is looking forward to re-entering markets in Vietnam and Iran, with base in India, reports Russian news agency NOVOSTI.

Kamaz mounted with air defence system
Kamaz mounted with air defence system

Kamaz in India was renamed as Kamaz Motors Limited after the takeover of 100% shares of Vectra group by KAMAZ Inc. in December 2013, Their joint venture – Kamaz Vectra Motors Limited – was created in February 2010.

Kamaz Motors Limited is registered with Registrar of Companies (Roc-Bangalore registry) under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), India. The Directors of Kamaz Motors Limited are Alexey Boris Agibalov, Rustam Shamsutdinov, Irek Gumerov, Pavel Kanichev, Rafail Gafeev, Zhanna Khaliullina and Deepa Nayak

With the partition of Soviet Russia (USSR) and especially after Czechoslavakia dissolved into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, Ravinder Kumar Rishi, the promoter of Vectra Group had acquired majority stakes in Tatra a.s., based in Czech Republic. The Vectra Group has been operating many different companies, with operations primarily in India and Eastern Europe.

The Vectra Group had come under investigation by the CBI following present Union Minister and the then Army chief General V.K. Singh’s disclosure in early 2012 that a huge bribe was offered to him for clearing the purchase of vehicles.

Vectra promoter Rishi had earlier left  the country after the directorate of Revenue Intelligence had registered a case against his company Rishi Electronics in 1983 under COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act).

According to reliable sources, after leaving India, Rishi received crucial help from an Indian diplomat and started operating and building his business across many different countries by partnering with a number of foreign companies bidding for business. During this period, he also managed to acquire a U.K. citizenship.

Vectra Group became the largest shareholder of the consortium Tatra Holding s.r.o. that owned Tatra a.s. The Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) has been making trucks for defence and other purposes under licence from Tatra. Hence technically, BEML has been directly linked with Ministry of Defence but Vectra stood to gain from each truck supplied to the Army by BEML.

The Vecta Group was also in news a couple of years ago when due to certain discrepancies in the evaluation process, the Ministry of Defence had scrapped an ambitious Indian Army tender for light observation helicopters. One of the front runners in the race was Eurocopter along with Bell. Global Vectra Helicorp, one of the Vectra Group companies was agent for Eurocopters in India. These companies had scored over Augusta of Italy and the Russian Kamov and Kazan. In December 2007, the lid was off from the evaluation process when contrary to the MOD claim that Eurocopter had engaged a broker, word had spread at the highest level that the person acting as broker for Eurocopter— S.J.S. Saighal was the brother of Lt. Gen. H.S. Saighal, the DG Army Aviation.

When the BEML-Vectra controversy was at its peak in 2012, it was asserted by an advisor to the Defence Minister and the CMD of Bharat Earth Movers Limited that Tatra is an outstanding truck. Obviously, this was timed to deflect public attention from the then Army Chief’s allegation that he had been offered bribe for clearing procurement of vehicles?

VK Saraswat, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief and scientific adviser to the Defence minister had simultaneously gone on record stating that the performance of the heavy-duty trucks inducted into the army in 1987 is outstanding.

The big issue has not been the quality of the trucks in question. What should have been investigated is how the contract for Tatra trucks that were earlier supplied by Czechoslavakia as part of a defence deal was renewed in the later part of the ’90s on a single tender basis instead of going in for a comparison with equivalent vehicles like Ural of Russia, Fiat of Italy, Mercedes and Man of Germany. Inquiries revealed that the contract for production of Tatra trucks by BEML was renewed for the first time between 1996 and 1997 when H.D. Deve Gowda was Prime Minister, Mulayam Singh was Defence Minister and General Shankar Roychowdhury was the Army Chief.

TATRA vehicles have their origin in the oldest vehicle factory in erstwhile Czechoslovakia. After the collapse of Soviet Russia and formation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Vectra became the largest shareholder of the consortium Tatra Holding s.r.o. that owns Tatra a.s.

On July 15, 2014, The Central Bureau of Investigation had filed a charge sheet under section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 in the Court of Special Judge, Patiala House Courts in New Delhi against retired Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh for allegedly offering bribe on behalf of Vectra Group, to then Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh, who is now a Union Minister, in connection with procurement of vehicles.

Within days of this, in the last week of August 2014, the CBI even filed a closure report in this case  taking the stand that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

The case that now stands closed

A case was registered by CBI on 19 October 2012 under Section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against a retired Lieutenant General on a complaint from the then Chief of Army Staff. In the complaint, the Army Chief had alleged that on 22 September 2010, the then serving Lieutenant General had offered him a bribe of Rs. 14 crores on behalf of Tatra Vectra Motors Ltd, (a joint venture between the UK based Vectra Group  and the Czeck firm Tatra Trucks}. to clear the file for procurement of 1676 Tatra HMVs (High Mobility Vehicles) for the Indian Army.

On the basis of the complaint, a Preliminary Enquiry was registered in the same matter by the CBI on 11  April 2012 and searches were also carried out on 20 October 2012 at seven locations in Delhi, Noida and Mumbai.

In the ultimate analysis, the working of CBI comes under cloud in this case. No body will contest the dictum “one is innocent untill proven guilty”. The courts give a verdict on the basis of evidence and facts of the case. It is the job of the investigating agency to collect prosecutable evidence before filing the challan in court. The CBI’s role in  this case should come under strict scrutiny and what is important is that accountability should be fixed for any lapses committed by officers concerned.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.