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Aug 22, 2009 at 10:01pm IST

CBI gives Fernandes clean chit in coffin scam

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is ready with the chargesheet in the 2002 Coffingate scam related to Kargil War. The investigating agency has named three Indian Army officials and a US company in the chargesheet.

But sources say there is no mention of the then defence minister George Fernandes in the chargesheet whose reputation was badly damaged by allegation of a scam in the purchase of the coffins.

The three Indian Army officer named in the chargesheet include Major General (retired) Arun Roye, Colonel (retired) SK Malik and a serving officer Colonel FB Singh.

The fourth accused in the case is the American manufacturer of the aluminium caskets.

Major General (retired) Roye was the Defence Attache in Washington when the caskets were ordered.

The caskets were allegedly purchased at a price many times their actual cost and the issue became a major embarrassment for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government.

An FIR was lodged by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government when it came to power after the 2004 Lok Sabha Elections.

At the height of the Kargil War the Defence Ministry imported aluminium caskets from US-based funeral service company Buitron and Baiza. A total of 500 aluminium caskets were imported to transport the bodies of slain soldiers.

Each casket was bought for $2,500, allegedly 13 times more than the actual price. It was also found that the first lot of caskets supplied were heavier than required, and were prone to develop leaks.

There have been allegations that all established procedures of defence procurement were flouted to award the contract to the US-based firm.

The government, too, allegedly incurred a loss of over $1,87,000 in the purchase.

(With inputs from Sumon Chakrabarti)

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