Blacklist and 8 lost yrs later, CBI to close Denel case

New Delhi

The CBI is likely to file a closure report in the eight-year-old Denel kickbacks scandal, but significantly, this is following an informal understanding that the South African armaments major and its employees will withdraw cases and injunctions filed in Indian and South African courts.

The case against Denel is based on an allegation of 12.75 per cent commission paid to UK-based Varas Associates for the supply of bunker buster anti-material rifles, and was registered by the CBI in 2005. Prior to that, the Ministry of Defence had blacklisted Denel for arms contracts.

According to the CBI, the alleged kickbacks were listed as receipts for "technical assistance" and "consultancy'' with Varas Associates being blamed for trading its influence with the price negotiating committee. An amount of Rs 20 crore was allegedly paid by the company for obtaining confidential MoD documents before securing the contract for 1,200 rifles during the NDA regime.

However, with several Letters Rogatory being dispatched by the CBI remaining unresponded to over the past years and little hard evidence of the alleged kickbacks trail, there appears to be unanimity within the agency that the case should head for closure. A final decision is likely to be made by Director Ranjit Sinha shortly.

This follows several meetings between top MoD and CBI officials where the progress — or lack of movement — in defence-related cases, including the Denel case, was reviewed and the impact of long-winding probes on defence procurements discussed. There is also an indication that the expected closure of the Denel probe could be a precursor to similar action on other defence procurement and bribery cases which too have dragged on for years owing to lack of evidence.

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