NEW DELHI — The Indian Defence Ministry has begun a global search to procure unspecified numbers of heavy trucks on which to mount missiles following a ban on acquiring vehicles from Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML), which has become involved in a bribery scandal.
The current requirement for the Tatra trucks is estimated to be about 1,300 vehicles, mostly to carry missile systems being produced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, including the Akash surface-to-air missile and the BrahMos cruise missile.
The ban on procuring the Tatra trucks, which BEML makes under license from the U.K.-based Vectra Group, came in the wake of allegations made last year by the former Army chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, who said he was offered a bribe by a retired Indian Army lieutenant general to clear a file related to the procurement of more than 600 Tatra trucks. The matter then was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation.
After the allegations, Defence Minister A.K. Antony ordered a CBI probe to verify the charges and put all purchases of Tatra trucks on hold pending a decision on the probe.
A Defence Ministry official said the Tatra trucks made by BEML meet requirements and so far 6,500 have been purchased at a cost of about $650 million.