Free Press Journal

Coffin scam: Court discharges three former Army officials

New Delhi: A Delhi court today discharged three former Army officials who were charge sheeted by the CBI in the 2002 “coffin scam” of the Kargil war, citing lack of evidence.

Special CBI Judge Poonam Bamba let off the then military attache in the Indian Embassy in the US, Major General (retd) Arun Roye, Col (retd) S K Malik, then Col F B Singh as the court did not find prima facie evidence to proceed against them in the case.

The CBI had filed the charge sheet in August 2009 against four persons, including US based private person Victor Baiza, the vendor who had supplied the casket.

Baiza, the then President of Buitron and Baiza Caskets and Funerals Supplies, did not appear before the court here.

The CBI had not named the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, who had come under the scanner following allegations that poor quality aluminium caskets were bought from USA at “exorbitant rates” after the Kargil war.

During the arguments in the court, advocate Pramod K Dubey, who appeared for Roye, had contended that his client had never dealt with Baiza personally and had no role to play in the purchase of the caskets.

Similarly, the other accused had also denied the charges levelled against them by the CBI.

The government had in June 2005 asked the CBI to conduct a thorough investigation in the case and the agency had lodged a case on June 28, 2006 under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) of the IPC and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The agency, in its charge sheet, had alleged that accused persons along with other unknown persons had abused their official position, and had “cheated and defrauded” the public exchequer by way of purchase of sub-standard aluminium caskets and body bags from an unapproved US-based vendor M/s Buitron and Baiza at exorbitant rates.

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