Operation west end

TEHELKA: So you've been involved in the evaluation procedure earlier? MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH


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TEHELKA: So you've been involved in the evaluation procedure earlier?


TEHELKA: Of various products?

LT.COL BERRY [answering for Satnam Singh]: A number of times...

TEHELKA: Basically you are in the field job?

MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: Yes, I am in the operational job. 

TEHELKA: Operation. Which is in infantry…hardcore infantry…?

MAJ. GEN. SATNAM SINGH: Yes, basically from the infantry. But then you know, we keep on changing our roles. Today I'm operational commander, tomorrow I may be on staff.


* * *

A little time after the meeting Colonel Berry explains the 

significance of the meeting with General Satnam Singh.

Berry was there the whole time alongwith Major Singh.

LT.COL. BERRY: If you shake hand, it is shaken forever. Otherwise, people will say "sorry". Like he told you that first thing is for them resolution. He has given you a feeler already that "Look, if your resolution is okay, you are okay." Absolutely. Because on resolution, he cannot force…cannot compromise.


* * *

Elsewhere, the brew is simmering. After hearing a lot of talk about R.K. Jain, treasurer of the Samata Party, being the briefcase man of George Fernandes, we at West End decided that a direct approach was called for. The series of meetings with R.K. Jain proved to be a goldmine of information about past and present defence deals. It incriminates beyond redemption Defence Minister George Fernandes and the Samata Party. Jain was conned by emphasizing  the size of West End as a group, the contributions it would make to the Samata Party fund and to Jain's own coffers. An introduction to Jain.

R.K. JAIN: I am the national treasurer, I have given you the card. The treasurer is close to the boss because for money matters he has to talk to the treasurer only. Even if he talks to 10 others, he has to talk to the treasurer.

TEHELKA: Bilkul, naturally.

R.K. JAIN: Please consider that it is not hidden from the treasurer that the party is getting money. Money is withdrawn when I pass the cheque, when I sign it. And why should I lie? I would take money only in lieu of work done for you.

* * *

Jain explains what his role will be for West End. He also goes on to narrate the details of one of the first defence deals that he did for Samata party, when the party had no money and had just come to power. Suresh Nanda of the  Crown Corporation paid them Rs. 1 crore for help in getting the order of  250 Armoured Recovery Vehicles for a Slovakian company.

R.K. JAIN: Armoured recovery vehicle was my first case which I did it for Slovakia.


R.K. JAIN: When George was Defence Minister for the first time[ gestures] . After one year, then he became another Defence Minister.

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN: This is I am talking about the first time when he became the defence minister. As soon as he became the defence minister, after six or seven months…


R.K. JAIN: Suresh Nanda approached me for armoured recovery vehicle. He was the agent for the Slovakian company.

TEHELKA: What was the product?

R.K. JAIN: Armoured recovery vehicle.

TEHELKA: Oh! Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN: There were 250 vehicles were there. The tender was worth say 250 crores.


R.K. JAIN: There were two…three, competitions - Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and there was a company from Poland.


R.K. JAIN: Boomer.

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah, that jet plane and everything.

R.K. JAIN: Nanda approached me. Czechoslovakia's price was the lowest, second Slovakian, third was the Poland.

TEHELKA: Haan, Haan.

R.K. JAIN: He said, "I will give you one crore rupees in advance…"


R.K. JAIN: "You get disapproved the last one…Czechoslovakia because they are so lower that we cannot match their price."


R.K. JAIN: "If you can push him out. Delegation is going on to the…delegation has been ordered to go to Czechoslovakia. Stop this delegation, and technically reject this company. Here are the documents."


R.K. JAIN: "By which it's proved that this company is closed for the last two years. They will start only after getting this order."

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN: "I will give one crore rupees. And I will give you…if they are technically disapproved, then you are my agent."


R.K. JAIN: "For this particular…perks…and I will give you so much of commission."


R.K. JAIN: I said, "Fine." He gave me the correspondence. I took the correspondence to George.


R.K. JAIN: And he said, "All right, I'll reject it." He is a very intelligent man. Next day he called Rajiv Goba.


R.K. JAIN: He said, "Ring up to this Indian Embassy in Czechoslovakia and find out whether this company is closed for the last two years or not."


R.K. JAIN: And he rang up. It was closed.


R.K. JAIN: He told me, "…said the company is closed for the last two years. There is no point of a delegation to go. And therefore this company is technically disqualified."

[Jain's phone is ringing.]

TEHELKA: Okay, it is manipulated.

R.K. JAIN: He wrote straight away on the file himself. He never goes and orders to a Joint Secretary. He wrote it himself, and sent the file back. Nanda gave me one crore rupees. He called me, "Yes, Mr. Jain, the file has come down. Like you know George…"

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN: "The file is down, my work has been done, I am very happy. You take your one crore rupees." I said, "Fine, give it to me."

TEHELKA: Yeah, this kind of work.

R.K. JAIN: After that…


R.K. JAIN: After that, the bugger could not get lowest into the PNC. Poland become the lowest.


R.K. JAIN: Then he started running around. "Mr. Jain…" I was very angry, "You bastard." And on the instruction of George Fernandes, Rajiv Goba attended that PNC to see that what is happening in the case.


R.K. JAIN: Party was wanting money. We just came into the power, we had no money.

* * *

The story behind Jain vaulting himself into the treasurer's post of the Samata Party is too interesting to be left out.

TEHELKA: Basically, traditionally you are a businessman?

R.K. JAIN: Yes, just entered into the politics two years back. Not merely entered, but George Fernandes selected me. He called me and said, "You become my treasurer." I used to go to ministers as a industrialist goes at times. One of my friend came and said, "Look, I am going to George Fernandes." I said, "He is a very good man. I want to see him, I have never seen him." I went to him the first day. The next day I got a phone call in the night at 7.30. "Mr Jain, can you come and see me right now?" I said, "Yes." Actually, in the first meeting he said, "Mr. Jain, I want two-and-a-half lakh rupees." When I went without appointment…when I went with my friend, "I needed money. Can you arrange 2.5 lakh?" I said, "What are you talking? You are such a big man. You are asking for 2.5 lakh rupees? I can't give you. You should have asked for 10 lakh, 20 lakh. What is 2.5 lakh?" Then he says, "No, no, no. I am need 2.5 lakh. Can you give it to me?" I said, "Yeah, I'll give it. Give me two-three days' time." Next day again he phoned to me. I thought he'll ask for more. He had agreed for 2.5, now will he ask for more? He said, "Mr. Jain, I want to make you my national treasurer." That is how I became the treasurer.

Later, Jain explains to the President of West End how he lobbied with Defence Minister George Fernandes to get the Air Jet Trainer project for Samata Party.

R.K. JAIN: You know I worked for your project initially here. I started with this project called Air Jet Trainers.


R.K. JAIN: Air jet trainers. And basically, you know there are three major manufacturers. Americans are also there, but since it is banned from America, so they were not competing. The British Hawk, Alpha Jet from France and MAPO-MiG from Russia.


R.K. JAIN: So the…I…this MAPO people, MiG people, approached me. I went to the boss. I said, "Look, sir, this is something…."

TEHELKA: Mr. Fernandes?

R.K. JAIN: Haan. "…This is a very big job, worth of 4,000 crores, 3,600, to be precise…."


R.K. JAIN (continuing): "And…if you bless me, then I'll take the agency from them and do it." He said, "Look, give me a time. Give me some time. Let me check." So he checked up. He came back to me after two-three days. He said, "Mr Jain, I have checked up, and I feel that they are going to stand the lowest…."

TEHELKA:…Chance of….

R.K. JAIN: They are already lowest.

TEHELKA: In terms of price?

R.K. JAIN: In terms of price.


R.K. JAIN: There is a good chance that the order will go to them. Catch hold of them.

TEHELKA: This is the MAPO-MiGs?

R.K. JAIN: MAPO-MiGs. "You can tie-up with them."


R.K. JAIN: Then I went to the boss again. I spoke to the MAPO people, MiG people. I said, "Look, well, I can do it."He said, "All right, but you have to get us introduced to George Fernandes. In the sense fix up an appointment. Official appointment. And we will go and see. If you are able to do it, then you will be our representative in this particular deal in India."


R.K. JAIN: I went to the boss again. I said, "Look, this is the problem." He said, "But they should trust you. You are a treasurer. What is the point of exposing me? Why do you want to expose me?" I said, "I am not exposing you because I am not asking for unofficial appointment. I am asking for a official appointment." He said, "All right". I said, "This is not such a big deal, why they should believe you?"


R.K. JAIN: He said, "All right, but you can send…."

TEHELKA: When was this? Last year?

R.K. JAIN: Last to…this is…one-and-a-half year's time.

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN: Then I…told…spoke to MiG people. He said, "All right, Mr. Jain, after meeting, we'll give you the agency agreement." Then we talked about. I said, "Look, I want 10 per cent commission." The chairman said, "No, Mr. Jain, we can't give you more than seven per cent. Because seven per cent is…. This is a big project of 3,600 crores. Though commission will be higher, but some part of the commission will go to…I mean…wherever it goes. It's none of your headache".

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN (continuing): "…But you are going to get seven per cent…." 

TEHELKA: Yeah, yeah.

R.K. JAIN: And then I said, "No, I can't do it for less than 10 per cent whether the deal is small or big because in this particular deal the PM is also going to be involved at one stage. It needs a Cabinet-approval. So…my party will expect at least three per cent. PM house will expect at least three per cent. And how do I survive in seven per cent? Then there are bureaucrats, myself, and everybody is there. If you narrow it down, you say two per cent, two per cent…. In India you can't negotiate with ministers. Which means…. Normally, they try and keep three per cent and upto two per cent depending upon size…." And they said, "All right…you…." He went and met George Fernandes. And George Fernandes was laughing to me next day. He said, "The bugger was nervous, he was sweating. The chairman of MiG was sweating." He said, "Then I realised that he is not at ease. So I had to start discussions, I had to, you know, talk to him for 15 to 20 minutes." He was very happy. He came back and he said, "Look, yes, it's all right. Look, you come to Russia, we will sign the agreement." So I flew to Russia. Though I am not allowed to flew without the permission of George.


R.K. JAIN: But I went to Jaya Jaitly. I said, "Madam, they are calling me to Moscow." She said, "No, no, Mr. Jain, it's not safe. You don't fly because you see, you are our treasurer. People are keeping an eye on you." I said, "Look, they have called…unless we sign an agreement tomorrow, I do the job for them…and they turn out…they don't pay me, then where do I go? Party will say 'where's our commission?' What do I do?" [gestures] She said, "All right, go, go." So I went there. The chairman and all seven-eight people of that MiG company…all chiefs and some managers…came and attended the meeting. Then he said, "Mr. Jain, I did a mistake there. You see, we cannot sign an agreement today on the air jet trainers. But we have small, small few jobs like upgradation of MiGs. Why don't you take these small jobs first, and in the process we'll make an agreement with the bigger one." I…I was in a… you know, my mood got spoilt because I took the permission from the boss, I flew down to Moscow to sign an agreement…."

TEHELKA: The problem was from the MiG guys?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, the MiG…. They're not wanting to sign the agreement at that time. They said you start with the smaller projects and bigger projects…

TEHELKA: Why was that?

R.K. JAIN: Because they were not confident of providing all the papers and licences, which are needed to approve them technically.


R.K. JAIN: There was some problem then with the flying hours.


R.K. JAIN: So the air-sea worthiness certificates was not, you know, was not there.

* * *

Of course, Jain was facing strong competition from Sudeep Chaudhary,  one of the mysterious Sukhoi fighter aircraft middlemen, to represent  MAPO-MiG. Chaudhary had worked himself into the enviable position  of representing two competitor companies - British Hawk and MAPO-MiG. In fact, Jain first met Chaudhary at the MiG chairman's office and so broke were MiG that it was Chaudhary who picked up the expense of  bringing down the planes to India for a demonstration at Bangalore.

TEHELKA: It's tough luck.

R.K. JAIN: So they….

TEHELKA: You didn't manage Hawk? You didn't go and talk to them? You should talk to the best people in the business.

R.K. JAIN: No. That Sudeep Chaudhary. That guy approached me. He is the man who was looking after the Hawk interest as well as the MiG.

TEHELKA (interrupts): Explain to him…the East-West…

R.K. JAIN (continuing): They're very clear people.

TEHELKA: East…. This is the same guy who was involved in the Sukhoi deal?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, Sukhoi deal.

TEHELKA: Exactly. You know everything… [laughs].

R.K. JAIN: Sudeep Chaudhary.


R.K. JAIN: Because, there you see, he is representative of the Sukhoi.

TEHELKA: Is he a businessman?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, businessman.


R.K. JAIN: So he was representing both the companies. MiG as well as the Hawk.

TEHELKA: And he knew?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah. Because I met him first time in front of the Pushkin, the chairman of MiG.


R.K. JAIN: He was sitting in his room. He spent total money of bringing all the MiGs and air jet trainers from Moscow to India. The complete money, which was around more than one crore rupees, was spent by Chaudhary because Russians had no money.

TEHELKA: To bring what? The papers and everything…

R.K. JAIN: The planes from…for demonstration…

TEHELKA: Okay, okay. You mean the fuel and the carting….

R.K. JAIN: In Bangalore.

TEHELKA: Okay. Assembling…

R.K. JAIN: He spent the total money. That's what that Pushkin told me and next day he said, "Mr. Jain, why don't we meet tomorrow?" I said, "All right, but what is your basic purpose?" "No, no, come and see me tomorrow... you…you will be benefitted." I said, "All right, I will come tomorrow." I went to Sudeep Chaudhary's house.

TEHELKA: He stays in Delhi?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, in Delhi.


R.K. JAIN: He says, "Mr. Jain, why you want to go with MiG? They will not get the order. Both of us, let us…let us make an understanding. Why competition? If you want, I can give you a letter where all positive points of the British Hawks are there." I said, "When you are confident this order will go to British Hawk, then why are you running after the MiG?" He said, "This is India. You never know anything can happen at what…at any time. Why should I allow any competitor to come in?"


R.K. JAIN: "It's fine. But I am sorry. I cannot shake hands with British Hawk. I was told by George Fernandes that the order will go to MiG." I refused. I said, "No, and…I don't like to run around…run after two companies in the same job. I have feeling that I must work for MiG. So, I am sorry I cannot work for British Hawk. If you have another projects where you want my help, where I am not tied up with anybody, definitely I'll help you." Then he gave me three names. One was Sagem. It's a French company. I got it the order. Sagem.

TEHELKA: Israeli company?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, French company.

TEHELKA: For what? This is the…Sagem also…that's what he is asking.

R.K. JAIN: The other order was the upgradation of gun from 130mm to 155mm. That was from a company called Sultam from Israel.

TEHELKA: This is medium artillery?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, artillery. Basically it comes under artillery. Medium is.... This was… I did that job also. The file was running from the Narasimha Rao government and nobody was taking a decision for buying or not to buy.

TEHELKA: And Mr. Fernandes said, "I will do it"!

R.K. JAIN: "I will do it." And he did it.

TEHELKA: It's a great way of Fernandes!

R.K. JAIN: They got this order in the month of March this year.

TEHELKA: Just give that. That is exact…. Abdul Kalam is involved. The Abdul Kalam is written a letter to Mr. George Fernandes that we can use indigenous and….


TEHELKA: Who is Mr. Kalam?

R.K. JAIN: Scientific advisor to PM.

TEHELKA (continuing): Just explain that, that is…that is wrong! You can't imagine that is…what he has done!

* * *

There is another Suresh Nanda deal in which he gave an advance of Rs 1 crore to R. K. Jain for the Samata Party. This time for getting an air-to-air and  surface-to-surface missile system through the Indian Navy. In fact, the Israeli missile system called Barak was objected to by Abdul Kalam,  Scientific Advisor to the Indian government, as he was in favour of the indigenous varieties - Trishul and Prithvi variants. But Abdul Kalam  was overruled by George Fernandes. And this is why Fernandes did it.

R.K. JAIN: Our help at times is a very big help. Like Barak was the case. Barak, you know is a system which is set on the ships, for Naval ships. And it is air-to-air…surface-to-surface missile. The file was going on for purchase of seven Barak, plus the ammunition from a company called Rafael in Israel. Abdul Kalam…the file went twice. I told you…DRDO, the head of the research and development wing is the scientific advisor to the defence, Abdul Kalam. Nowadays Atre is there. Abdul Kalam has retired. So, he wrote on the file that, "Look, we are developing our Prithvi or Trishul. Trishul missiles. I think, according to my…according to me, the Prithvi should be…or Trishul should be set up on our naval ships. There is no point of buying this imported system Barak."

TEHELKA: That is not missile. That is a system.

R.K. JAIN: Again, I just do my job. How do I do? The scientific advisor is also on the above of George Fernandes now. He gave me one crore rupees. "You keep it with you. Whether this order is being done or not done, I don't care. But I want to give it to the party. You give it and please try and help me. Money is not a problem." I went and paid…. I told Jaya Jaitly, "Look, so much of money he has already given to me now. If you accept it, that means we have to do something for the party. If you don't accept it, well, I'll go and give it back. But only accept it when we feel that we can do something. Otherwise, he won't say anything to me, but he won't feel good. He won't feel nice." She said, "Give me time for two days." She kept the money. After two days, she says, "I've spoken to the boss. Don't worry. He said he'll make everything fine." The file was called. He wrote on the file: "Vikrant is our main ship, is the main vessel."

TEHELKA (interrupts): That's your aircraft carrier?

R.K. JAIN: Yeah. "Pakistan has the surface-to-surface missiles. And our ship is very well equipped because we have…air landing…air take-off…."


R.K. JAIN: (continuing): "We can't leave this ship, you know, like this. So in my suggestion, in my view, at least one system should be purchased. And put on our main vessel."

TEHELKA (interrupts): That is INS Viraat also. He can give that to….

R.K. JAIN: Yeah, yes, INS Viraat.

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