India launches army bribe probe

Gen VK Singh, Delhi, Jan 2012
Image caption Gen Singh says the army's integrity has fallen

India's federal detectives have begun an investigation into a complaint lodged by army chief Gen VK Singh that he was offered a bribe of $2.7m (£1.7m) by a defence equipment lobbyist.

Gen Singh had said the bribe was offered if he approved the purchase of 600 "sub-standard" vehicles.

There has been an uproar in the parliament over Gen Singh's remarks.

Defence Minister AK Antony has promised a probe into Gen Singh's complaint, which he made to a newspaper.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has "registered a preliminary enquiry" into the complaint, a spokesman said.

A preliminary investigation is the formal beginning of a probe but during this phase the investigators do not have powers to question, search or arrest.

Last month Mr Antony told parliament that Gen Singh told him a retired lieutenant-general, Tejinder Singh, had met him and offered him a bribe.

Lt Gen Singh has vehemently denied the charges, saying the accusations are "totally false" and that he will take legal action.

Gen Singh told the The Hindu newspaper that the lobbyist offered the bribe in return for approving the purchase of 600 "sub-standard" vehicles of a "particular make".

He said the army already had 7,000 of the vehicles in question and many had been sold at "exorbitant prices with no questions asked".

Though Gen Singh did not say when the alleged incident happened, the CBI spokesman said the "incident reportedly occurred in September 2010".

Gen Singh has already been involved in a row with the government over his retirement age.

He went to the Supreme Court seeking a ruling to establish his date of birth as 10 May 1951 - as his birth certificate and other official documents record.

Last month he dropped his case against the government after the Supreme Court said it had found no error or prejudice in the government's and army's setting of the date a year earlier, on 10 May 1950.

The date of birth determines whether the general retires this year or next.

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