Luxury Bus Row: Nitin Gadkari Refutes Charges Involving Swedish Co
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari denied all allegations and called them, “malicious, fabricated and baseless.”
Swedish bus manufacturer Scania allegedly paid bribes to win bus contracts in India, an investigation by three media outlets along with an internal probe by the truck and bus maker has revealed.
The investigation has also shed light on an alleged transaction between the bus maker and a company said to have ties with Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari's sons.
However, the company, in a statement to The Indian Express on Thursday, 11 March, denied sending any bus to Gadkari for personal use. This comes after the office of the Union Transport Minister had also denied all allegations and called them, “malicious, fabricated and baseless” on Wednesday, 10 March.
“The media allegations that in November 2016, Scania delivered a luxury bus to a company that had close ties with Gadkari's sons are malicious, fabricated and baseless,” it said.
What The Reports Said
Scania commenced operations in India in 2007, with a manufacturing unit coming up in 2011. As per an investigation by three media outlets, Scania paid bribes in seven different states between 2013 and 2016.
Serious shortcomings by employees, including senior management, were revealed via an internal investigation by the company that was started in 2017, a Scania spokesperson told Reuters.
“This misconduct included alleged bribery, bribery through business partners and misrepresentation,” he was quoted as saying
The internal investigation report from 2018 was made available to German broadcaster ZDF and Swedish television SVT.
The Reuters report also highlighted how truck models were falsified by replacing chassis number and license plates on trucks to sell them to Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) in a $11.8 million (Rs 8 crore) deal.
On the alleged connection with Gadkari in the whole matter, a report by SVT is quoted as saying, “At the end of 2017, Scania’s auditors received tips that Scania had provided India’s Minister of Transport with a specially designed 'luxury bus' as a gift. According to the report, sources also provided information to the German vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen, which owns Scania, that the bus was a gift to an Indian minister with the aim of getting an assignment in India.”
Gadkari Denies Allegations
The Transport Minister’s Office has repeatedly denied the allegations. In a statement on Thursday, Gadkari’s office informed that Scania had denied sending any bus to Gadkari for personal use.
“The company’s spokesperson has also denied engaging in any business deal with any (one) connected with Gadkari’s sons,” Gadkari’s office further said.
Gadkari’s office also offered clarification that the minister was a “pioneer in introducing Scania’s Ethanol-run bus in Nagpur as a part of his drive to bring in green public transport in India”, The Indian Express reported.
It added that he encouraged the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) to initiate a new project and the Nagpur civic body signed a commercial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Scania.
Referring to Scania’s statement on Thursday, the office said that the entire affair was an internal matter and the Swedish manufacturers spokesperson has made it clear that Gadkari and his family members have absolutely nothing to do with the purchase or sale of any Scania bus, nor do they have any thing to do with any firm or individual who might be linked with the purchase or sale of the bus.
They also requested the media, stressing on ‘foreign media’ to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims against Gadkari’s family and the minister. Calling it a “witch-hunt,” the office further said that if the media fails to comply, the Union Minister will need to take recourse to all necessary legal measures to protect their reputation and integrity.
On Wednesday, Gadkari’s office had said in another statement, “The allegations that the bus was not paid for and was used for the wedding of Gadkari's daughter are nothing but a figment of media’s imagination.”
"The attempts by a section of the media to drag the name of Nitin Gadkari and his family, therefore, are very unfortunate and part of a sinister and malicious campaign to malign Gadkari and tarnish his unblemished reputation as a person of impeccable integrity," an earlier statement had said.
What Scania’s Spokesperson Has Said
In a report by The Indian Express, the news publication said that Scania had responded to its queries on email, and denied sending any bus to Gadkari for personal use.
The company did sell the Scania Metrolink bus to one of its Bengaluru-based dealers called Transpro Motors, following which, the dealer sold it to Sudarshan Hospitality, which it said was, “an Indian bus operator”. Sudarshan Hospitality is based out of Nagpur.
Sweden-based company spokesperson Hans-Åke Danielsson said, “No, this particular bus was purchased from Scania India in 2016 by one of the company’s private dealers who delivered it to one of its customers (an Indian bus operator). I have no information about the current status of the bus,” The Indian Express quoted.
Regarding the NMC deal, The Indian Express also reported that the company informed that all 55 ethanol buses that were delivered to NM for trial were returned to it.
The spokesperson added, “The bus was a tour bus (Scania Metrolink). We do not inform about the price our retailer organisation (i.e. the dealers) is charged for the products they sell on the market,” The Indian Express quoted.
(With input from Reuters, The Indian Express and The Wire.)
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