Three years on, CBI files ‘Coffingate’ chargesheet

Three years after the case was registered, the CBI has finally filed a chargesheet in the sensational 'Coffingate' scam pertaining to the conspiracy related to purchase of overpriced, substandard aluminium caskets and body bags for Indian soldiers who died on the battlefield. It has charged three senior Army officials — retired Major General Arun Roye (who was Brigadier then and was the Indian military attache in Washington), retired Colonel S K Malik (who was then posted with the Master General of Ordnance) and serving Colonel F B Singh (who was then posted with MGO) — along with US national Victor Baiza, who supplied the aluminium caskets and body bags to the Indian Army, in the chargesheet filed at Patiala House Court on August 19.

CBI spokesperson Harsh Bhal said, "The case relates to purchase of aluminium caskets. This material was later rejected. Baiza had obtained payment against the LoC (letter of credit) and this caused loss to the tune of Rs 89 lakhs." The aluminium caskets scam came to notice in 2002 leading to criticism of the BJP-led NDA government, particularly after the Kargil war, when George Fernandes was the Defence Minister. The CBI officials say the Ministry of Defence had imported substandard caskets and body bags in 1999-2000 at the exorbitant rate of over Rs 125,000 per casket and Rs 4,250 per body bag due to which the Indian government had suffered a loss of Rs 89.76 lakh. The CBI had registered a case in June 2006 under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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