Sunday, 17 February 2013

CBI hasn’t cracked any defence scandal in last 30 years

With a legacy of an extremely poor track record in probing defence scandals, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has a golden opportunity to redeem its image with the VVIP helicopter scandal.
Over the last three decades, the CBI has registered and probed several defence scandals. But a clinical examination would show that the federal investigator has failed to crack almost all of these cases. In fact, it has closed some of these cases even without filing a chargesheet.

The only case in which the agency was able to significantly establish at least a part of the cash trail was in the Bofors scandal, but even in that case there were no convictions. In fact, flip-flops by the CBI were very stark through the entire investigation, drawing allegations of political manipulations. In February 2007, when Ottavio Quattrocchi, the key accused in the scandal, was arrested in Argentina, the CBI put up a half-hearted effort and India failed to extradite him.

The HDW scandal, in which the German company inadvertently admitted to the Indian embassy in Germany that it paid 7% commission to agents, was closed by the CBI without a chargesheet. The CBI and income tax authorities had raided former navy chief Admiral S M Nanda, who led the Navy during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, among others.

After tapes by the Tehelka magazine emerged, the CBI filed several FIRs in 2006-07 and also later. The most famous was the Barak missile scandal, in which the FIR had named among others former defence minister George Fernandes and former navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar.
Admiral Kumar used RTI to later prove that some of the claims of the CBI in its FIR were patently false. It turned out that the CBI relied heavily on information provided by some DRDO scientists.
In the FIR filed in 2007 into the upgunning of artillery guns, the CBI had accused the Israeli firm Soltam of paying bribes to, among others, arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie. The agency filed a closure report in 2010 saying the payments received by Choudhrie’s firm MITCO from Soltam was for “electric and non-electric stainless steel kitchen utensils”.

The CBI has recently filed a chargesheet against Abshishek Verma and his wife Anca Neacsu for violation of the Official Secrets Act. However, its investigation against Verma for receiving half a million dollars from Rheinmetall to assist it in getting out of blacklisting is still under investigation.
The CBI has also recently chargesheeted Suresh Nanda and others, but in a separate bribery case.
The CBI failure to nail arms-dealers, especially in tracking down movement of kickbacks, is the biggest problem. It is a fact that arms deal kickbacks are moved through tax havens, where real owners of firms and beneficiaries hide behind several layers of secrecy.

No case filed as no Indian involved yet, says CBI

The CBI sources on Saturday claimed that they have not registered a case in the AgustaWestland deal scam yet because they have not been given a complaint against any Indian, in the primary complaint given by the defence ministry three days ago. As bizarre as it may sound, the agency wants allegations or complaints against an Indian citizen or an Indian agency/company in the matter.
Meanwhile, a joint team of the CBI and the ministry of defence (MoD) is likely to leave for Italy on Sunday to probe the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter deal. CBI sources said the team will meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain the details of the case. The sources said two members of CBI comprising a DIG-level officer and a law officer besides officers from MoD will be a part of the team.

The decision by the CBI came as it virtually drew a blank from the MoD in getting some official inputs regarding to alleged kickbacks in the case, official sources said. The CBI was handed over a letter from the MoD seeking a probe by it in the case which has triggered a storm in the country. Attached with the letter were some Indian and Italian press clippings, which the CBI said could not form the basis for registering a case.

The CBI had sought the help of the Indian mission in Rome which too has not been able to provide any authenticated court documents to the agency, sources said.

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