Published On: Fri, Nov 20th, 2020

Agusta Fallout: 78 veterans want fast-track courts for corruption in defence deals

New Delhi: 78 armed force veterans including 3 retired Air Marshals, one retired Vice Admiral and 26 retired Lieutenant Generals have collectively issued a statement demanding fast-track courts for all corruption cases related to defence deals and while citing examples of AgustaWestland scam, they urged the Centre to send an “unambiguous message across all the ‘high and mighty’ that the National Security is paramount”. They have equated corruption in defence deals with terrorism.

This cannot be viewed as simply a matter of corruption, but must be considered in the wider ambit of anti-national activities

“While corruption in any field is reprehensible, the impact of corruption in the defence sector could seriously compromise the nation’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. This cannot be viewed as simply a matter of corruption, but must be considered in the wider ambit of anti-national activities, at par with other acts such as terrorism. For the good of the nation, corruption in defence deals must be dealt with through a focused investigation, and through special fast-track courts,” reads the statement.

The list of signatories, which includes Air Marshals ASP Singh, Dushyant Singh and RC Bajpai, specifically mentioned the AgustaWestland scam and how names of prominent Congress leaders have come up during the investigation.

Citing newspaper reports, they said, “Unfortunately, the bribe takers in India are yet to be punished.Chartered accountant Rajiv Saxena, key accused in the case, has reportedly told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) about the entities and investments through which part of the alleged kickbacks were routed, and that these also involved defence dealer Sushen Mohan Gupta and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr.Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri. Responding to questions from ED officials, Saxena reportedly said that they received money from an offshore company called Pristine River. This is the company Saxena claimed was managed for Mr Bakul Nath, who is Mr Kamal Nath’s son. In the accounts of Ratul Puri given to ED, there are reportedly four round figure payments made in 2014 totalling $20 million and transferred into Pristine River with the name Nitin Bhatnagar written against them.”

Further, they cited media reports to suggest that Congress leader Salman Khurshid “is said to have admitted” that Dev Mohan Gupta, the father of alleged defence dealer Sushen Mohan Gupta, is a close family friend. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” the armed force veterans insist.

In what can further embarrass the Congress party, they also raked up the Bofors defence scam, in which former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s name had come up.

The statement further said, “Corruption in the matter of defence purchases has a debilitating impact on India’s defence preparedness. The Bofors scandal is a case in point. While the Swedish firm was blacklisted, India lost out on the further supply and indigenous development of an excellent artillery gun through TOT, which was to prove its weight in gold during the Kargil War of 1999. This seriously impacted on the Army’s capability and modernisation effort. It was only after a gap of three decades that the artillery modernisation programme could finally see the light of day in 2016/17.”

The veterans emphasised that anyone trying to play with the sanctity of national security must be “severely punished”. Lack of action in such cases of corruption in defence deals, they added, will only give “wings to the corrupt” to continue with such “anti-national activities” in future and hence is unacceptable to them.

The list includes 45 Major General rank veterans and 3 retired Air Vice Marshals apart from the 3 retired Air Marshals, one retired Vice Admiral and 26 retired Lieutenant Generals.

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