NEW DELHI: Tatra Sipox (UK) Limited, supplier of Tatra trucks to the public sector BEML, is an agent of the manufacturer. This was admitted by Tatra Sipox on June 23, 1995, to the UK authorities to which it described its main activity as being the “manufacturers’ agents”.
The fresh evidence would indicate that the contract between BEML and Tatra Sipox was in clear violation of defence rules which ban dealing with agents or middlemen.
TOI has secured a copy of Tatra Sipox’s returns filed before the UK authorities where the company, responding to the query, “give a brief description of principal activity”, stated, “manufacturers’ agents”. This document is among many accessed by this newspaper which show that BEML violated the defence procurement stipulation that allows purchase contracts only with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Documents accessed from European authorities show that the company Tatra Sipox is fully owned by an investment firm that is controlled by a trust based in the European tax haven of Lichtenstein. Ravi Rishi, the NRI businessman who runs Tatra Sipox and a clutch of other companies inUK,Hong Kong, India and elsewhere, had been operating at least one more establishment in Liechtenstein since 1986. Coincidentally, the first contract for supply of Tatra trucks was signed by BEML in 1986.
These findings raise questions about BEML’s deal with Tatra Sipox UK since 1997, prior to which BEML’s contract was with Czech company Omni Pol for 11 years. Although it’s widely known that agents and middlemen are banned in defence deals, the arrangement with Tatra Sipox passed muster with not just BEML, but also the defence ministry and the Army brass for several years before the current Army chief V K Singh blew the whistle.
TOI sent a detailed questionnaire to Ravi Rishi’s PR agency in Delhi but no response was forthcoming. On Friday, the agency got back to say there would be no formal response to the questions.
According to Tatra Sipox’s filings on January 20, 2012 before the British authorities, it has issued a total of 15,000 ordinary shares. The entire lot was held by Vectra Ltd, another company of Rishi’s controlled by a trust in Lichtenstein.
According to documents of Vectra filed with the British authorities, it has issued a total of 1,00,000 ordinary shares. As on September 2, 2011, the last date of official filings from Vectra Ltd, the 1,00,000 ordinary shares of Vectra Ltd was held by Hemang Foundation, the address for which is not given in the communication. However, some old filings of Vectra Ltd show Hemang Foundation’s address as Land- strasse 25 PostFach 439, FL 9490Vaduz,Liechtenstein.
Apart from Hemang Foundation, there is at least one more entity holding stake in companies controlled by Rishi inUK, Hong Kong and India.
In 1986, the Ravi Rishi group opened Deswa Holding Establishment in Liechtenstein. In 2010 and 2011, the entire shares of Venus Projects Limited, a company owned by Rishi in Hong Kong, were held by Deswa Holding Establishment.
The Hong Kong-based Venus Projects Limited controlled 50% of Tatra Sipox UK, until January 20, 2009. According to details filed on January 20, 2011, Venus Projects had transferred all its shares in Tatra Sipox UK to Vectra Limited, which now fully controls the company.