NEW DELHI, June 11 India suspended the head of
state-owned BEML Ltd. on Monday as part of an
investigation into a multi-million dollar defence deal, the
second scandal in less than a week to hit weapons procurement in
the world's biggest arms buyer.
The scandal involves allegations by India's former army
chief that he had been offered a $2.8 million bribe to buy a
faulty batch of Tatra trucks for the army.
The ministry of defence said V.R.S. Natarajan, chairman of
BEML, an engineering and defence firm, was asked to leave his
post for the duration of the inquiry by the Central Bureau of
"The Government has put the MD of BEML V.R.S. Natarajan
under suspension following a recommendation by the CBI that he
should be kept away from the post to ensure a fair
investigation," a government statement said.
On Saturday, an Indian businessman and his wife were charged
after the CBI investigated allegations that government officials
were bribed to stop a Swiss subsidiary of Germany's Rheinmetall
AG from being blacklisted.
The CBI is investigating BEML after former Army chief
General Vijay Kumar Singh said in March he had been offered a
$2.8 million bribe to buy faulty Tatra trucks for the army. That
accusation that was seen as an attack on the defence ministry
for not taking action on corruption in weapons procurement.
BEML assembles Tatra trucks for the army. Tatra is a Czech
company, but several firms are now involved in its subsidaries,
including British-based Vectra.
India's defence ministry has put in place strict guidelines
for arms deals to crack down on bribery and corruption at a time
when Asia's third-largest economy is on a weapons-buying spree
to modernise its military.
India is the world's largest arms importer.
In another investigation, Italian magistrates are looking
into allegations that payments were made to secure a 560
million-euro ($737 million) helicopter deal with India's Air
Force that was won by Finmeccanica.
(Reporting by Arup Roychoudhury; Editing by Ron Popeski)