Blacklisting of firms to hit artillery modernisation: Army chief

June 12th, 2009 - 2:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Blacklisting of Singapore Technology along with six other defence firms on charges of bribery would delay the process of artillery modernisation in the Indian Army, Gen Deepak Kapoor admitted Friday.
The development is of particular concern as the army has not been able to purchase a single gun in the last 23 years.

“Till the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is able to complete the investigations, there will be delay and it will affect the procurement of ultra-light howitzers,” Kapoor told reporters here.

Singapore Technology’s Pegasus ultra-light howitzer was a leading contender for the Indian Army’s order for 140 guns worth Rs.29 billion.

“The Pegasus guns were to be field-tested this summer in Rajasthan. The blacklisting would definitely derail the whole programme,” an army official said, requesting anonymity.

The other blacklisted companies are Israeli Military Industries, BVT Poland and Media Architects Pvt. Ltd of Singapore and three Indian companies: T.S. Kishan and Co. Pvt. Ltd., R.K. Machine Tools and HYT Engineering Co.

The CBI had registered a case against the former Ordnance Factory Board director general Sudipto Ghosh in Kolkata May 17 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The seven companies were mentioned in the first information report (FIR) as those that allegedly gave payoffs to Indian officials.

Although no chargesheet has yet been filed by the CBI, the defence ministry “put on hold” all the dealings with the firms till further orders.

The artillery modernisation programme of the Indian Army has been hanging fire for over two decades and has been mired in controversy. The Swedish howitzer gun Bofors was embroiled in a payoff scandal in the 1980s. In 2004, South African firm Denel was blacklisted derailing the artillery modernisation.

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