Consolidated into a single file by Sanjeev Sabhlok on 8 June 2011.
A story of how the suitcase people are compromising Indian defence Tehelka blows the cover off the unholy nexus of politicians, senior defence personnel and ubiquitous fixers who infiltrate and infest every defence deal. Floating a fictitious company flogging non-existent thermal imaging binoculars, the Tehelka Investigative Team encountered and cracked the closely guarded bastion of manufacturers, agents and their military and political patrons running up to the highest offices in the land.
This is the story of how we went about demolishing the last illusion of the Indian democratic state. It is a tale replete with appalling avarice, backstabbing, bribery and inducement. Shockingly, no one the investigation touched emerged untainted.
Investigated & written by
ANIRUDDHA BAHAL & MATHEW SAMUEL
Yossarian sidled up drunkenly to Colonel Korn at the officers' club one night to kid with him about the new Lepage gun that the Germans had moved in.
"What Lepage gun?" Colonel Korn inquired with curiosity.
"The new three-hundred-and-forty-millimeter Lepage glue gun," Yossarian answered.
"It glues a whole formation of planes together in mid-air."
Catch 22, Joseph Heller
We at Tehelka.com managed to sell the Lepage 90, the ALION and the Krueger 3000 to the Indian defence establishment - ostensibly fourth generation hand-held thermal cameras and, needless to add, non-existent.
This is the story of how we did it.
It all started with Senior Section Officer P. Sashi, in the Ministry of Defence, wanting to make some money from arms dealers. We at Tehelka.com floated a fictitious arms manufacturing company, based in London, called West End International. We were in search of a product whose indent existed in the Indian Army. We also wanted to get an entry into the lowest end of the defence chain and work our way upwards through the Indian scenario of graft. Here Sashi, affter getting a monetary incentive, takes us to Brigadier Anil Sehgal's house in New Delhi. Sehgal is the deputy director in DGOS, a crucial army procurement post. Brigadier Sehgal and P. Sashi give us the two things that we need - a defence product and an entry into the gravy train.
P. SASHI (toSehgal): Today we got that Malaysian binoculars. QA manual. Quality Assurance…call it as manual type. I think you might not have seen. Today there…there is a bunch of…one book, booklet is there. Sponsored by Malaysia….
BRIG. ANIL SEHGAL: I know. I've seen that.
BRIG. SEHGAL: …in which ADC has written that this should be handed over to W.E.
SASHI:Haan, W.E. Of course.
TEHELKA: Sir, you have to tell us what are the things which, what we should do…because…this is a field…
BRIG. SEHGAL: This is a very vast field. It's a very, very vast field.
TEHELKA: We are the people who have absolutely no…
[Sashi comes and sits next to Sehgal.]
BRIG. SEHGAL: Okay.
BRIG. SEHGAL (continuing where he left off): There is an annual requirement…what I foresee…at present, of present equipment of…about 10,000 II tubes per year. And in the next four to five years I have not yet calculated.
* * *
TEHELKA: Huge purchases. And those people who are geared…
BRIG. SEHGAL: …good period. I stay in the background…. What I am telling you, don't discuss it with anyone. It's just between…not meant for your ears also, but then…
SASHI: That way you can put in a peg and prepare it.
BRIG. SEHGAL: If you can find someone to manufacture the ammunition. That 's also in a big way.
TEHELKA: Where do you want me to go…from Russia, Israel? I have got base in New York, I have got a base in Canada, Argentina, Chile I have got.
BRIG. SEHGAL: See, now these II tubes…
TEHELKA: France. They'll be coming to you.
BRIG. SEHGAL: France they've been happily...I'll be very frank. You have to break this…this thing…of BE-Delft. BE-Delft is a PSU, which was…India invested. As of late, there has been a certain policy that nothing would be imported. There are many people who are really interested in that. So you have to get the nexus broken up at the top. And this BE-Delft thing…
TEHELKA: If I become their authorized…
BRIG. SEHGAL: But BE-Delft is not taking anyone else.
BRIG. SEHGAL: BE-Delft is Bharat Electrical (sic) Delft. Delft is Holland.
TEHELKA: Holland. Okay.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Holland has branched out from itself after the sanctions. US sanctions. What you have to do is get little open...because they have been talking big. Yeah, we can do this much. But he [referring to SASHI] is aware of it, how much less. They have been taking us, taking us for a ride. And somehow the bureaucracy also. And things have been badly manipulated in the Ministry. I'll be very frank with this. Things have been manipulated in the Ministry that…delay things deliberately, to suit them.
[Drinks arrive. They toast each other]
* * *
BRIG. SEHGAL: He doesn't have…there are so many other things also which are coming in this. Like you have spares. I can give you which spares' indent was made. I can give you the last procurement price. Generally what happens, what the scene is. They are not aware till the last minute what rate it was taken at. That I can calculate and you will also do. Everyone has been coming up with an offer. But I said, "Look, first give me 10 lakhs, then we will talk."
TEHELKA: If they are not ready to place the information then the question of talking further does not arise. Who wants to discuss the future? Sir, in this I, my people are very clear. They have straight away said that "You go ahead and you be a part of the venture." It's not as if I am separate…would need a guide.
BRIG. SEHGAL: I can help in so many things. I will tell you where to go, whom to meet.
TEHELKA: Everything…meaning…you tell me everything.
BRIG. SEHGAL: But then, see, I can show you the way.
BRIG. SEHGAL: But you'll have to move on your own.
TEHELKA: Yes, yes, sir. Once you show us the way, we'll automatically follow it.
* * *
Soon enough comes a demand to be entertained in a five-star hotel. Brigadier Sehgal comes there with a Lt. Colonel Sharma, who is an officer posted in the Air Force procurement section. Here, they are entertained and disclose how to proceed.
TEHELKA: Sir, I want to ask…another one thing. One Mr. B. S. Yadav sitting in the Air Headquarters. It's a foreign cell. Sales he is dealing, I think in that.
LT. COL. SHARMA: They have got their own procurement. They are basically dealing with Russians directly.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Because those kind of PNCs [Price Negotiation Committee] and negotiations are done at the ministry level. We don't involve ministry in our world. We do it directly.
BRIG. SEHGAL: This behan chod, they've done a very smart thing. He has kept everything with him.
LT. COL. SHARMA: Fuck it, no CDA, nobody. We issue the tender, call the bloody parties, do the PNC, give the supply order. Screw you.
TEHELKA: Sir, this thing you have said, this we can…in this whatever you say, we can get everything done. We will…
LT. COL. SHARMA: No, but I told you. We are basically dealing with proprietory items. You have a tie-up with those people.
TEHELKA: We will get the tie-up done. With whoever you want, we will get a tie-knot, we'll get anything done.
LT. COL. SHARMA: All right.
TEHELKA: You tell us, you will only have to tell us who we should tie with and who we should knot up with, who we should tie the 'naada' with. We will do everything. And whatever you ask, from a pin to anything you wish…
LT. COL. SHARMA: Thursday…on Thursday come to Room No. 221 at Vayu Bhawan.
LT. COL. SHARMA: Don't they give four options in [Kaun Banega] Crorepati?
TEHELKA: Yeah, okay, okay, okay.
LT. COL. SHARMA: We'll give you 10 options. The rest of the calculations you will do.
TEHELKA: Yes, yes. All that's our work.
* * *
BRIG. SEHGAL: So, I will give you the details of the ammunition immediately.
BRIG. SEHGAL: The biggest one.
TEHELKA: Okay, okay, okay. That one. If you have understood the last line.
* * *
BRIG. SEHGAL: Right?
SASHI: Sir's Air Force thing is there…
BRIG. SEHGAL: That I have said. How much ammunition we need…you'll go crazy trying to find out. Behan chod…who will supply this much stuff!
SASHI: Yes, the way BE-Delft is roaming around. Where will they get it?
* * *
After enjoying the hospitality of West End International at a five-star hotel, Brigadier Sehgal demands Rs. 2 lakh to give further documents relating to the procurement of Hand-Held Thermal cameras and other equipment that West End might be interested in supplying to the Indian Army. He accepts Rs. 20,000 and a little while later another Rs. 20,000. He also advises on how to proceed in the matter of bidding for the Hand-Held Thermal cameras.
TEHELKA: We have apologized for one thing, sir, that whatever is happening, we are going at a slow pace, but you can be rest assured…
[Gives money to Sehgal]
BRIG. SEHGAL: How much is it?
TEHELKA: This is 20 [thousand], sir.
BRIG. SEHGAL: What will I do with this?
TEHELKA: Whatever is coming, as it is coming, we are giving it to you slowly, slowly.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Let me tell you something. You keep this. Give it all tomorrow.
* * *
BRIG. SEHGAL: There are some principles in life.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Whatever it contains that will increase later…meanwhile, I will tell you the items, the country of origin. When your talks progress, I will tell you where the country of origin is, it's on my fingertips.
BRIG. SEHGAL: I will tell you the name of the vice-chiefs, there are two vice-chiefs.
TEHELKA: Okay. Name will be told, name - question mark. Okay, sir.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Just write a letter to the Vice-Chief, MGO…that "we understand there is the requirement of hand-held HHTs." Our rate…keep our rate a bit low.
TEHELKA: All right, sir.
BRIG. SEHGAL: And send one to DGOS also.
BRIG. SEHGAL: …OS.
BRIG. SEHGAL: I will take it from him today. Before that clear my dues. I have told the story…behan chod…that they are going for the TOT - transfer of technology. And as you had said, that you are ready to hand over the TOT. We would like to negotiate with you and we are ready to hand over the TOT. Behan chod, put that in also.
TEHELKA: All right, sir.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Even if TOT is a question mark, you at least ask because that man has to decide.
TEHELKA: Yeah, I can't decide.
* * *
BRIG. SEHGAL: Yeah, you can't decide. That's why I said, put a question mark.
BRIG. SEHGAL: See, the guy will think twice before signing…. Behan chod, see I have a counter offer and all these fuckers know about it. Either I give moneybehan chod to all of them. Include all. This mader chod is the way here. Not everyone gets the money. Whoever does the contract, gets it. You don't have to give.
* * *
BRIG. SEHGAL: So when you have initiated this to every fucker…
TEHELKA: From these five, either all of them will call, then all of them will ask.
BRIG. SEHGAL: All of them won't ask. I will tell you who will call, but when the next fucker knows that if I go in for this, when the contract has gone through, thenbehan chod…when a contract has gone through…why have you not gone through this? There is already a letter from so-and-so.
TEHELKA: Sir, that will kill the others' chances and he would straight come to me.
BRIG. SEHGAL: Then he will say why are you going for this? In view of the letter, why are you going for this?
TEHELKA: Sir, you go for this. And that is our company. The minute it is our company, we have got the thing. And then he will ask for his…his 10 per cent.
TEHELKA: So, it will go up to Lt. General.
BRIG. SEHGAL:Yaar, that goes on the powers of Brigadier Singh. May have to go to RM [Raksha Mantri] also.
TEHELKA: Who is RM?
BRIG. SEHGAL:Raksha Mantri. It will go to Fernandes sahib also.
SASHI: He also…
BRIG. SEHGAL: That behen chod is so money-hungry that one can just go on about it.
[Sehgal gets up to make another drink]
BRIG. SEHGAL (continuing): All these politicians are chutiyas. They are all different behind your backs.
TEHELKA: Sir, before this, for groundwork sake, can't we meet the sahibs?
BRIG. SEHGAL: Listen to me, why I am telling you do this, because that is reaching the financial stage.
TEHELKA: So we'll have to pay there also. If we meet five, we have to pay them all. We have no idea whether they will or won't do the job.
BRIG. SEHGAL: What I am telling you…
TEHELKA: It will be singled down to one person.
BRIG. SEHGAL: And, thereafter, I will tell you who the bastard is. I don't want to teach all the tricks because it has reached such a stage. Send a letter to theRakshaMantri also. Address it to the RakshaMantri and give a CC to everybody,behan chod.
TEHELKA: RM first? Sir, then how he will collect the money?
BRIG. SEHGAL:Behan chod, there are numerous channels for him.
TEHELKA: Those people themselves will contact us.
BRIG. SEHGAL: They will come on their own, they will contact on their own. All that you have to ensure, that it can function upto minus 40 degrees.
TEHELKA: 34, not 40 degrees.
BRIG. SEHGAL: If you make it minus 40 degrees, then nothing like it. Between 40 and 50. Because basically, what, where we want it is the Siachen. There it is between [minus] 40 and 50.
* * *
While Senior Section Officer P. Sashi had earlier given us some related documents regarding hand-held thermal cameras on various other occasions, he plied us with more of the same. Also, because we intended to expand our product range, the range of confidential documents that he supplied us varied from requirements of ammunition to II tubes to clothing and even helicopters. Here's a brief sampling of one such transaction.
TEHELKA: Now you have to find a way out of this…. What are you giving me today? You are giving me something just now?
SASHI: I can take out that other directory, you know…binoculars and specifications and catalogue and colour this thing…resolution.
TEHELKA: You have not brought anything now?
SASHI: That guy is doing like that…I told him I'll return it. There are his notes in it also. The note that the DG…the General has written.
SASHI: Process. And what has our General written? "Why we should process?" Something like that. It is still kept there. I want to replace it. I told the boss, and he asked me, "If he will replace it, but will he do it so soon? All right, as you wish. If you want to take it, you take it. If something comes out of it, good…"
TEHELKA:Achha, there are some scales too.
TEHELKA: That is the quantity?
SASHI: One battalion; 300 quantity. We have 360 battalions. One battalion; 36 quantity…36 piece for one battalion. So we have 360 battalion. 360 into 3.
SASHI: I'll get it by the evening. There won't be any checking today.
TEHELKA: Take it now, na? I can arrange because I told them 3 o'clock I am getting all the documents in my hand. I have told them for the full money.
SASHI: All the documents, in the sense, you will get only the binocular and you will get the ammunitions…
SASHI: I didn't get the ammunitions catalogue. Speak to the sahab. I told you to speak to the sahab. Or that thing he wrote about the procurement plan…
SASHI: 150mm ammunition…for procurement, for so much and so much amount. As in 21 cartridges. There are 21 cartridges that are imported.
SASHI: That has been given.
SASHI: 25 ammunition, 66 ammunition, 135 ammunition…150 for Bofors. They import all these, na?
As a matter of fact, Sashi himself was setting up different channels for us that would take us right upto Defence Minister George Fernandes and the then Minister of State for Defence, Harin Pathak. He was using state party functionaries of the BJP and Shiv Sena for lobbying with the politicians. For army officials and bureaucrats, he used their personal secretaries. Towards the end, Sashi's channels hit a roadblock. In the meantime, we at Tehelka had already opened two-three independent channels of our own which started bearing fruit. One such operator we tapped was Lt. Colonel Sayal (Retd). He was our conduit to many officers concerned with procurement. Here, Sayal has fixed a meeting with his old colleague Brigadier Iqbal Singh, PPO, Prospective Procurement Officer, a crucial post under the Master General Ordnance (MGO). Here is an excerpt from Brigadier Iqbal Singh's first meeting with Tehelka at his home.
LT. COL. SAYAL: Actually Sir, West End International is a firm, which is based in London. In London. So they have got this night-vision devices, night-vision goggles and all that. They have not entered into India so far, which they are intending to. They have a project, so they have got the assets to deal directly with manufacturers for Southeast Asia and this South Africa. About that, they want to promote that. So they have associated me also. I have got the brochures with me also, in case you have some time, so just glance through it. And if it is of any interest to you, for the defence forces.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: Night-vision devices?
TEHELKA: Night-vision devices…it will work minus 40.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: Minus 40? What spadework you've done so far?
LT. COL. SAYAL: Spadework is that there is a requirement for this kind of thing. CSF Thomson have got the order. Have not been able to, but their product is not up to the mark. So they are finding difficulties at the inspection stage itself. And now as the range is required quite a few, eight-nine companies are coming to this field. So this we secure. Further, this thing can be given as this is the time-bound project. So the aim is short-listing the name of the company; by seeing the product. Rest we will discuss later, because we have very little time left.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: You do like this…write a letter giving the details of product, along with a brochure, and you say that you are willing to give trials on no-cost basis. No-cost, no-commitment basis, and as such your equipment should be evaluated.
* * *
Ten days later, Brigadier Iqbal Singh meets the Tehelka undercover investigation team for further talks at a Delhi five-star hotel. He accepts Rs. 50,000 in bribes, advises West End on how to proceed further in the matter of the HHTs and agrees to lobby with Lt. Gen. Dhillon, Master General Ordnance (MGO), and other army officers on behalf of West End. He also impresses on us the importance of lobbying with Major General P.S.K. Choudary of the Weapons & Equipment (W.E.) division, as he is the most important at this stage.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: You cultivate Choudary and GSO. These two things.
TEHELKA: That is my part. I will do it. That...P.S.K. Choudary, that is your part.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: P.S.K. Choudary, I will try.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: That is...he doesn't come in my chain of command.
TEHELKA: Yeah. Sir, now I given 50,000 bucks. If you need more, you ask me. I will give you, no problem.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: See, it's like this. Your job should be done.
TEHELKA: Yeah, naturally, naturally.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: I am not looking for…
TEHELKA: Yeah. That US job - give me that entire thing. I will do it.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: One is not interested in money if your job is not done.
TEHELKA: Give me that also. That I will do.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: All right.
TEHELKA: No problem.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: And my job is to look after…up to MGO side. That is my department.
Brig Iqbal then spells out the commission that has to be given to Gen. Dhillon.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: Cultivating MGO is my problem.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: But Choudary is not my department.
TEHELKA: But it is interconnected.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: I will try. I will find out somebody from his country-cousin side, whether he is game or not otherwise.
TEHELKA: Yeah, okay.
BRIG. IQBAL SINGH: All right, na? For Choudary, you also must find out somebody.