Rifles Hit Home: PART TWO
The Home Ministry responds to Tehelka on the Kalashnikov
scam but opens itself up to further scrutiny
MHA: “The Tender Enquiry was issued for procurement of
AK-47 / AKM-Series Rifles… M/s FSUE Rosoboronexport, Russia
submitted the sample of AK-103 Series rifles which was not meeting
the Tender Enquiry requirements, hence they were disqualified.”
Facts: The commercial proposal submitted by Rosoboronexport
clearly stated that they could deliver “7.62mm Kalashnikov assault
rifles, AKM ammunition and spare parts.” The MHA should know
that the production of AK 47s stopped in 1975.
MHA: “No such information regarding M/s Kintex
or M/s KAS Engineering Consortium has been received in MHA. Moreover,
Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in India had verified/certified
that M/s Kintex Shareholding Company is a 100% Government owned company
Facts: The Bulgarian government has admitted to Kintex’s
role in gunrunning. So have international organisations. The question:
is the crime less culpable just because it is state-sponsored?
MHA: “Kintex quoted the price of $184 per rifle
for the fixed butt version and $193 for folding butt version. The
price negotiating committee brought it down to $155 for fixed butt
and $163 for folding butt rifles, ensuring a saving of over Rs 9.46
Facts: The Russians had quoted between $150 and $160
to begin with. All Companies lower their quoted prices. Rosoboronexport,
would have dropped their prices too.
The fine print
MHA: “The total value of acquisition of 64,000
AK-47 rifles is around Rs 53 crore and not Rs 20,000 crore.”
Facts: The total value of acquisition is, indeed,
about Rs 53 crore as originally reported by Tehelka. But the rest
of the 20,000 crore is also in the pipeline, to be spent on police
modernisation over the next 10 years.
MHA: “As per the standard contract clause regarding
patent and other industrial property rights the tenderer shall be
responsible for the completion of the supplies, irrespective of the
fact of infringement and supplier shall also be responsible for any
infringement of such rights.”
Facts: The MHA was reminded repeatedly by Rosoboronexport
about intellectual property rights violations. If they choose to sue
Bulgaria, the supply of weapons may get affected.
The honourable government
of India is either squint-eyed or has willingly decided to play so. For,
what else explains the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) decision
to gift an arms contract worth about Rs 53 crore to Bulgaria, a country
whose agencies have tried to push weapons into the hands of terrorists
operating in India.
“No such information has been received in (sic) the Ministry of
Home Affairs. Moreover, the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in India
had verified/certified that M/s Kintex Shareholding Company is a 100 percent
government owned company of Bulgaria,’’ wrote Bhoop Singh,
deputy director, procurements, in a letter to Tehelka after we reported
the Kalashnikov scam last week.
Does the ministry — the nodal point responsible for India’s
internal security — need reminding that the arms dropped over Purulia,
West Bengal, were also procured from KAS Engineering Consortium, a state-owned
Bulgarian agency? Instead of asking Bulgaria to explain, it awarded the
Kalashnikov deal to Kintex, another Bulgarian company. Incidentally, the
Bulgarian government has, under international pressure, admitted to Kintex’s
involvement in various illicit arms deals. One of these includes the supply
of weapons worth $15 million to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Worse, this
was done on the basis of false end-user certificates.
M/s KAS was accused of supplying the prized collection of lethal weapons
that were airdropped over Purulia on the night of December 22, 1995. The
parcel included 300 assault rifles, 25 rocket launchers, 80 anti-tank
rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of hand grenades and 25,000 rounds
of assorted ammunition.
International Action Network on Small Arms, a global network of civil
society organisations working to stop the proliferation of small arms,
too expressly pointed fingers at KAS. In its study, The Arms Fixers, the
group says that a UK-based firm, Border Technology and Innovations, ordered
the consignment of arms from KAS. According to the report, “BTI
turned to a well-known Bulgarian arms manufacturer, KAS Engineering, whose
subsidiary, the Arsenal Company, was in a position to sell pistols and
Kalashnikov rifles at low prices.” Even Oxfam, the UK-based NGO,
has indicated that KAS helped broker the deal.
That KAS’ involvement in the Purulia arms drop is widely known is
underlined by the fact that an attorney named Deepak Prahladka filed a
petition in the Calcutta High Court in 1999 seeking the arrest of two
In any case, it is not just India that KAS has been messing around with.
Just like Kintex, KAS, too, has been indicted for pumping arms into Africa.
In 2001, a UN Security Council Monitoring Mechanism, keeping a close watch
on the arms embargo on Angola, linked KAS to Victor Bout, debatably the
most wanted gunrunner in the world.
Bout, apparently, helped KAS to provide fake end-user certificates [documents
which expressly give the end recipient’s name] in the name of the
Government of Togo. Moreover, barring one instance, all weapons were transported
from the Burgas airport in Bulgaria to Angola in airplanes belonging to
Bout’s company, Air Cess.
Bulgaria, in fact, is replete with examples of shady deals because its
economy is heavily dependent on the sale of weapons. Another report produced
in 2001 by Saferworld, an independent UK-based foreign affairs think tank,
details the various firms pushing weapons into armed conflicts. EMCO,
the leading Bulgarian dealer, sold arms worth $25 million, mostly to Ethiopia
and Angola. Another firm, Bul-Air, pushed arms worth $20 million to Eritrea.
Business tycoon Mikhail Liskov’s Arsenal Corporation, too, pumped
arms worth $7-8 million into Chad and Angola.
In the face of all this, the question bears repetition: would the Indian
government still like to remain squint-eyed?